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Director Will Allen has stated that after he left the cult in 2007, he suffered an existential crisis. After considering making a film out of his experiences with the cult to heal from the trauma, he attended the Sundance Film festival and became inspired after viewing Keep the Lights On (2012) and sought ways to make his film. In the following four years, he worked on and developed the documentary. See more »
There's this social interplay that happens between highly codependent people and pathological narcissists. Who is going to give a person who needs constant adoration and attention, who is going to give that to them, ceaselessly? Somebody who relies on him as the source of their self-esteem. And they'll say, "You seem like a normal, rational, intelligent human being. How did this happen to you?"... It's what we do every time we come into a religion. We take on their beliefs as truth. You will do...
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Closing song written and performed by _Cabot Budlong_ former member for 20 years. Abused, still surviving... See more »
Holy Hell is a documentary made and produced by Will Allen, focusing on the "Buddhafield" cult in Hollywood, and his experiences of being a member of the Buddhafield for 22 years. The film school graduate compiles a plethora of funny, serious, and chilling shots from his time in the cult. It follows the members of the cult, and their leader, who was called "Michel" for most of the film. The film uncovers the secrets and stories of the members, horrified from their past in the cult and its leader.
The film opens up with Mr. Allen speaking about his childhood, and his mother not accepting his homosexuality. It then jumps to footage he took from the beginning of the cult, with members dancing and floating in a river. I was confused on this quick transition, because it clashed with the topic of his homosexuality or his mother. The clips of the dancing post-hippies in the beginning of the film was very intriguing, and was the reason I continued with this documentary. He shows more images and videos of Michel, the leader of this group, and the clips immediately grab my attention. The narration and images of the exotic and eclectic leader in the beginning of the film quickly foreshadowed the secrets uncovered later in the film. His persona was god-like, prancing in his speedo and polarized sunglasses, with his followers kissing his ankles, literally.
The personal shots given by Allen, from his small 80's camera, are invigorating and interesting. The footage invites viewers to picture themselves inside the cult, and what it was like through their daily routines. The film cultivates a hippy-ish vibe and creates a feeling of freedom
As Will shows past members, and their recorded interviews, the pain in their eyes stands out. They become scared and upset when they begin to reminisce and talk about their past in the Buddhafield. The members share similar stories throughout the documentary, insuring the validity of the information given by the members. Topics such as sex, abortion, drugs, and abuse begin to stir, and we see the true colors of Michel. Other 'serene groups' begin to be shut down around California, so Michel decides it's time to pack up and move to Texas. His devoted followers, of course, follow him. We see how the group gets accustomed to their new house and environment. We also see how Michel, who is now Andreas, moves from a spiritual leader to a controlling narcissist.
This film jerks emotions, and could dig deeply into viewers' similar past experiences. We can feel Allen's pain listening and watching the footage from the last few years of the Buddhafield. This film was enjoyable and informative. It showed emotions and memories that are rarely touched, and made me, as a viewer, feel emotional along with the interviewees. I recommend this film for an audience who enjoys learning about cults and their practices, or just simply because it's an aesthetically pleasing, emotional film.
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