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Analysis of Documentary "My Scientology Movie"

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The Documentary ‘My Scientology Movie’ was written by and stars Louis Theroux, and directed by John Dower. Theroux had been wanting to make a documentary on the church of Scientology for many years before the making of ‘My Scientology Movie’ initially wanting to see a different side of the church that the media did not show, but each time he reached out to the church in an attempt to gain a “look behind the scenes” he was denied entry by church officials. Eventually, he settled on the idea of illustrating a view of the church by provoking a reaction out of them. Documentaries made by Theroux always attempt to be as unbiased as possible, although it is impossible for a documentary to be made where there is no bias whatsoever.

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Through the course of the film, Theroux meets with ex-Scientologists, the most notable being Mark Rathbun. He meets with these people so that they can paint a picture of the goings on within the church from their own experiences, however, the opinions that are put forward in this way contain a large amount of negative bias. The opinions are being put forward by people who had left because they condemned the church and the way it was run. All of the recreations made in the film are consequently replete with negative bias. The re-creations are being made based on the word of Mr. Rathbun, who is known as ‘Scientology’s biggest critic’. Ideas put forward by a man with such a title are bound to carry a heavily negative bias. Because the re-creations were made purely off of the memories of ex-members of the church, the re-creation also likely have more of an emotional view of the event rather than a purely logical and factual representation.

Recreations of events also require actors to play the roles of the actual people in the situations being presented. The actors chosen in the film all auditioned and were selected by Mr. Rathbun. Actors are trained to express exaggerated emotion and to make viewers relate to and feel passionate and hold certain opinions about a scene, character or situation. Because all of the actors were hand picked by Mr. Rathbun, it can be assumed that every actor has been chosen specifically because of how well they portray a particularly evil individual, and by how well they express emotions of anger and rage to an extreme extent. All of the scenes that are of these past events are no longer suitable evidence for the truth about what happens behind the locked doors of the church of Scientology. The actors are seen reenacting scenes in a highly over the top manner, even if this is how members of the church in fact act, it simply does not hold credibility without actual solid evidence.

Theroux also creates the documentary in a way that will inherently portray the churches darker side. Because of his consistent refusal to the church, Theroux decided that if he wished to make a documentary about Scientology he was going to have to make them react to him. He intentionally attempts to provoke the church in order to get filmable reactions. This method of filming, however, becomes the cause of negative reactions. Instead of approaching the church in an open way, looking for redeeming qualities, the church is provoked until they are made to lash out aggressively and take action against Theroux where they would normally keep to themselves and let people be. Even after receiving letters from the church’s lawyers, Theroux continues to talk with Mr. Rathbun and use his experience to make the recreations providing further reason for the church to pursue him for creating negative views of the church and spreading them publicly. This inherent negativity that is being shown through the film makes the viewer perceive the church as a violent and generally terrible place, regardless of any other information they may have learned about it previously.

It can be seen that documentaries, even when made by someone who normally attempts to display as unbiased a view as possible, will have inherent prejudice. Weather it be through the source of information and credibility of the arguments made, the way in which events are shown, or the way the entire film is being made, the opinions of the filmmaker are always shown and the documentary becomes persuasive and the ideas held by the filmmaker are pushed onto the viewers.


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