Park City (United States) (AFP) – The Church of Scientology has lashed out at a film about the controversial group at the Sundance Film Festival, calling it false and based on “obsessive, disgruntled former Church members.”
Based on a book by Pulitzer-prize winning writer Lawrence Wright, the movie reportedly makes claims about high-profile celebrity Scientologists including Tom Cruise.
Sunday’s screening in the Utah mountain resort of Park City was held amid tight security and speculation about possible protests, although in the end nothing materialized.
But in a statement issued Monday the Church took direct aim at the filmmakers and HBO, which is set to air the film. It lambasted the filmmakers, notably for not seeking reaction to the allegations made in the movie.
“The accusations made in the film are entirely false and alleged without ever asking the Church,” it said, noting that the Church had taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times last month to denounce the movie.
“Despite repeated requests over three months, Mr. Gibney and HBO refused to provide the Church with any of the allegations in the film so it could respond,” added the statement.
-‘Vengeful apostates’ –
It called Gibney’s sources “the usual collection of obsessive, disgruntled former Church members kicked out as long as 30 years ago for malfeasance, who have a documented history of making up lies about the Church for money.
The statement finished by giving an Internet link — freedommag.org/hbo — to a further collection of “documented facts” about the case. In these the film was referred to as “glorifying bitter, vengeful apostates.”
Sunday night’s screening of “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” was, not unexpectedly, packed out, leaving many festival-goers unable to see what all the fuss was about.
According to the LA Times, the film includes interviews with ex Church members who spoke to Wright for his 2013 book, and raises questions about the treatment of members and the organization’s nonprofit, tax-exempt status.
The film recounts A-list actor Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman in detail, the newspaper said.
A former top Church official claims in the film that Cruise distanced himself from the church while married to Kidman, and alleges the church ordered him to “facilitate the breakup” of the couple, according to the LA Times.
Gibney won an Academy Award in 2008 for best documentary feature for his film “Taxi To the Dark Side.” He was also nominated in 2006 for “Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room.”
He is also known for 2013’s “The Armstrong Lie,” about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Gibney was granted unprecedented access to Armstrong and his entourage for an entirely different sort of film, prior to the cyclist’s fall from grace.