Scientology, the North Korea of religions, is both an easy and hard target for a documentary. On the one hand, generating interest in the subject is not too difficult. However, gleaning enough information and new material to be able to make something we haven’t seen before can be tricky.
Louis Theroux claims he has been trying to gain access to the church for years with no success. In My Scientology Movie, he sets out to bring them to him. It’s a clever ploy: go to L.A., the heart of the religion, and start to make a fictional film based on it. As soon as he even starts to cast the roles of some of the church leaders, word gets out and members of the organisation come knocking at his door.
Seeing how the church reacts to a production about itself is enough to justify the existence of this film. People come out with cameras, filming everything to try and intimidate the curious. Theroux’s crew gets tailed by private investigators for hours on end. Threatening letters from solicitors arrive in the mail. It’s creepy and undeniably interesting.
My Scientology Movie isn’t all gold. At times it attempts to mimic The Act of Killing and it doesn’t really work. However, it largely delivers on its promise, giving us a novel take on the secretive organisation. The novel premise combined with Theroux’s naive fearlessness make the film one of the more captivating documentaries about Scientology.