There was a palpable sense of anticipation for the world premiere of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief– and tickets were like gold dust. The way the Sundance process works is that passholders get first dibs and then ticket holders and then the wait list. Normally, only a few passholders show up, leaving plenty of room for ticket holders and a good number of people on the wait list. But this time it seemed that every single passholder was on hand, so even people with tickets weren’t able to find a seat. This seating drama displaced the prospect of Scientology protestors, and no disruption within the screening materialized.
If you suspected all along that Scientology is an evil pernicious religion, this film reaffirms that and adds plenty of added juicy details. I found especially fascinating how Scientology battled and actually beat the IRS, winning covetted tax exempt status as a religious organization. The film seemed to imply that Scientology was not a religion, but in terms of its greed, cruelty and delusional nonsense it seems to behave very much like one, exacting a terrible human price. Many reviews have already commended the testimony of the high-level defectors, but almost stealing the show for me was the clear-eyed testimony of Hollywood director Paul Haggis who by unsparingly sharing his shame gave us a step by beguiling step how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s a tour de force and an especially brave one by director Alex Gibney because as the film makes chillingly clear the one thing they do not believe in is turning the other cheek.
Thank goodness for HBO, Sheila Nevins and the army of 160 lawyers they have retained.