A Scientology movie only Louis Theroux could make - Macleans.ca - 2016-04-20
There's a shot that pops up again and again in attempts to document the Church of Scientology: two people holding cameras, filming each other, caught in a reconnaissance stalemate. It's a cinematographic mise en abyme. The surveillance and counter-surveillance recurs in an infinite loop, feeding a sinister sense of paranoia. It's in countless YouTube videos. It's in news coverage of the infamous cult/Church/Hollywood pyramid scheme. And it's there, repeatedly, in My Scientology Movie, the latest documentary starring British broadcaster Louis Theroux, which makes its Canadian bow at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto this month.
"What's that thing in movies when nobody wants to put their gun down?" Theroux asks, over the phone from London. "A Mexican standoff! It's like a Mexican standoff with cameras. When someone's being rude and hostile, there's a natural tendency to want to be rude and hostile back. I wanted to short-circuit that adversarial relationship."
Theroux, now 45, has made his name productively rewiring the relationship between journalist and subject. He's squirrelled into secretive sects and subcultures since his 20s, first as a correspondent on Michael Moore's short-lived NBC series TV Nation, and then on his own BBC2 show, Weird Weekends. Throughout his career he's tangled with televangelists, backwoods survivalists, porn stars, female bodybuilders (and their diminutive admirers), neo-Nazis, trophy hunters on safari, South African nationalists, Las Vegas high rollers, ultra-Zionists and more neo-Nazis.