Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

going clear scientology and the prison of belief poster 2015 documentary
8.0 Overall Score

The Church of Scientology is a living mystery

Unbalanced at points and jumps around

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Going Clear:  Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Studio:  Jigsaw Productions

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 25, 2015 (Sundance Film Festival)/March 29, 2015 (HBO)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


A scary room?

Ron Hubbard built an empire. Based on his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health from 1952, Hubbard constructed a religion with influence and power.  However behind closed doors, reports of abuse, criminal activity, imprisonment, and political influence have surfaced over the years.  Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright talk to former officials and Scientology members to get the story from those who lived it…and try to uncover the secrets behind Scientology.

Directed by Alex Gibney, Going Clear:  Scientology and the Prison of Belief was made with the help of Lawrence Wright who wrote the acclaimed non-fiction study of the church in 2013 (by the same title).  The documentary premiered in 2015 at Sundance Film Festival and aired on HBO after a small theater release.  The film was denounced by the Church of Scientology and there were reports that critics were targeted for printing favorable reviews (plus alleged attempts to prevent the film from receiving an Oscar nomination).  The documentary did receive Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming, Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming, and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special with nominations for Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera), Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming, and Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming.


LRH…the man with the vision?

The Church of Scientology is like a living mystery.  Much like legends of the Illuminati or the secret organizations within the Masons, Scientology is wrapped in mystery…but the more that comes out about Scientology, the scarier it is.  It is this lack of openness that both seems to attract and make the church a target.  Here, the church is painted pretty poorly along with its inventor L. Ron Hubbard.

Hubbard was a hack writer and the documentary presents him as a megalomaniac who is almost schizophrenic in his behavior.  There is no way to know the true Hubbard since he’s passed and he is an unreliable “witness” since his past has been so combed by Scientology.  The worship of him is also a scary factor of the group.  Just staring at “LRH” at these meetings is unnerving.

Regardless if you are Catholic, Muslim, Unitarian, various form of Christianity, or any religion, having beliefs is allowed regardless if you agree or disagree with the other religions.  Scientologists have a right to believe in thetans, ancient alien civilizations, volcanos, spirits, and auditings, but the more concerning part of the documentary is the criminal actions of the church (as presented by the filmmakers).  The people interviewed report physical abuse, political influence (by forcing religion for tax exempt), and virtual imprisonment by controlling their members.  The interviewees are jaded members, but they seem to have legitimate beefs…and talking to some of the former spokespersons bolsters the documentary’s merit.


Two guys trying hard to look cool but really just looking like tools (but they can buy and sell anyone).

To be completely open, Going Clear is a one sided story, but the group allegedly did reach out to the church and said that the church picked vetted members for interview…which the filmmakers rejected.  The movie loses a little credit here, but Scientology is notoriously shielded so “debate” with members or officials would probably have been worthless.

Personally, the Church of Scientology scares me, but any fanatical religion scares me.  Faith healers and snake-oil salesmen are bad enough, but when those people have muscle and power forcing families to “disconnect” from their loved ones is criminal.  The documentary does present an effective case against the church but sometimes jumps around and is uneven.  The Church of Scientology isn’t going anywhere soon, but the more it is threatened, the more dangerous it could become.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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