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Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

“Though the lid was blown off the Church of Scientology long ago, Alex Gibney’s powder-keg documentary, Going Clear, should certainly rattle the walls. Gibney had an excellent blueprint to work from in Lawrence Wright’s exhaustively researched 2013 bestseller, but he’s also added much fascinating material here, including new interviews and  video footage that has to be seen to be disbelieved.

“Gibney excels at untangling complex systems, and at showing us the human faces behind scandal-making headlines. Unsurprisingly, Going Clear is weighted toward candid, impassioned interviews with ex-Scientologists who share their stories. Like the disarming Sylvia “Spanky” Taylor, a longtime worker at Scientology Hollywood “Celebrity Center,” director Paul Haggis and Sara Goldberg, who obtained the church’s highest spiritual designation (Operating Thetan Level 8), only to quit in 2013 after being asked to “disconnect” from her own son, who had been deemed a “suppressive person.”

“The expert witnesses recount how they were first drawn to the church by its promises of success, happiness and the vanquishing of personal demons; the initial euphoria of the “auditing” process; and their gradual realization — many years and thousands of dollars later — that the emperor Hubbard wasn’t wearing any clothes. Gibney contrasts those stories with the testimonials of several former high-ranking Scientology executives, who elucidate the various strategies developed by the church to keep its sheep firmly in the flock, and to silence critics.

“Fascinating statistics abound. Ample screen time is also devoted to the church’s complex relationship with its biggest celebrity cheerleader, Tom Cruise, and its protracted 1990s fight against the Internal Revenue Service to restore its tax-exempt status.

“At the heart of it all, Gibney has made a great film about the dangers of blind faith. For Scientologists, going clear refers to a coveted status awarded to those who have completed a certain level of auditing. But for the men and women on screen here, it means something else: reclaiming their own voices and demanding to be heard.” - Variety

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