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

I guess it's because I don't live in the United States and because religions aren't really my thing, but I knew virtually nothing about Scientology. All I knew was that it is a cult, that you have to pay to be a part of it, and that Tom Cruise is a member of this so-called church. So what did I do to learn more about it? I watched HBO's documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

This documentary is based on Lawrence Wright's book of the same name and provides a deep look at the history of the Church of Scientology, how it went from being a cult to a religion, how it works, the role of celebrities, and its allegations for abuse, harassment and misconduct.

The film can be easily broken down into three parts. In the first part, we see former Scientologists, including Academy Award-winning director Paul Haggis (Crash), as they recount how they came across the cult/religion, and share their experiences. They talk about how they were lured into it, how it felt being a part of it and how difficult it was to leave it when they decided to do so.

In the second part, the documentary tells the story of the church. We get a pretty detailed biography of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, a very charismatic storyteller but also a maniac prone to violence and manipulation, and we learn how the publication of his bestselling book, Dianetics, led to the creation of Scientology and him being a prophet.

In the third part, we see what happened to the church when Hubbard died. Scientology was already an abusive cult but when David Miscavige, an ambitious, narcissistic, power-mad man, took over after Hubbard's death, the church reached a whole new level of dangerous. Lawsuits, blackmail, physical abuse, and harassment to family members, these are the tools Miscavige used to keep the members of the church in check, under his control.

HBO Documentary Films
In addition to giving us all those information, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief deals with Scientology's most famous and popular members, John Travolta (I did not know he was a member) and Tom Cruise, who is pretty much the cult's poster boy. And they come across like two completely different members: Travolta, you can almost pity as he comes across as if he's trapped into this; Cruise, on the other hand, comes off arrogant and condescending, and the documentary raises questions on whether he is or not aware of what's going on in Scientology, how much he knows about the abuses and how involved he is in it.

Director Alex Gibson presented all this through archive footage, dramatic reconstructions and interviews with former Scientologists, and he did so in such a compelling and engaging way that the two-hour running time almost flies by --I said almost because the third part is a bit heavy and boring. Anyway, the documentary does an excellent job at showing what is going on with Scientology, and at explaining how this "religion" works, especially to someone who knows pretty much nothing about it.


  1. This sounds like an excellent documentary on this horrible cult. All the film stars had some issues bout self worth including Tom Cruise and, as cults go, they manipulate the person to be part of this cult. This cult is very dangerous because they are everywhere

  2. The documentary was scary to watch as I believe on those stories of those abuses. Notably what happened to Travolta's former assistant and her child as well as a woman who got disconnected from her entire family because she went against the church. The story of those who were close to Miscavige and what happened to them including the publicist who lost it during a BBC TV piece. I felt for them including that guy over the fact that he lost his family through Scientology as they just pretend he no longer exists.

  3. I really loved this doc, it's insane how people get sucked into this. The money thing alone would turn me away.