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A documentary by: Roger Ross Williams

Editor: David Teague

Cinematographer: Tom Bergmann

Composer: Dylan Stark, T. Griffin

Original Animation: Mac Guff

Based on a book by: Ron Suskind

Starring: The Suskind Family: Owen, Cornelia, Walter and Ron.

LIFE, ANIMATION is a documentary based on a book written by Ron Suskind, father of Owen who at age 3 was diagnosed with autism.

This is a story about Owen’s journey from childhood, to his devastating withdrawal at age 3, to his diagnosis of the pervasive developmental disorder of autism, through to miraculously living on his own in assisted residential care. All due to the Suskind family’s persistence and recognition of Owen’s ability to communicate through his understanding of the exaggerated emotional cues shown in Disney films.

Owen’s father, Ron, has used his journalistic skill in portraying the difficulties of autism: the constant overstimulation (due to lack of filtering of the external environment), the loss of understanding of words and the determination to release him from his autism prison.

I can understand how this documentary, directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence; God Loves Uganda), has won so many audience awards: Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and the list goes on…

Not only a remarkable insight into autism, I found myself constantly smiling.

The Suskinds are just such a loving, supportive family, that every triumph is experienced right there with them. And Owen himself is a genuinely lovely guy. It’s such a pleasure to see him open up and become a young man.

Yes, there are difficulties, and I shed a few tears through-out the film, because that’s life.

I could relate to Owen’s difficulties, the falls we all take. And I could admire his tenacity to keep getting up and keep fighting the good fight: the losing of his voice and then finding it again.

This is a heart-felt story that is shown so well by the directing. And the soundtrack is perfect: there to amplify the moments without becoming intrusive. What amazed me the most was the original animation created by Mac Guff to depict Owen’s own imagined stories.

I could sense the amount of time and care put into this film and I have to say, it has really paid off. The film is a seamless journey, shown with emotion that is real and made relatable to everyone.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I learnt something not only about Owen and his battle with autism, I also found an opportunity to reflect on my own life journey.

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Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie

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Rated: MLouis Theroux My Scientology Movie

Writer and Director: John Dower

Writer and Presenter: Louis Theroux

Featuring: Marty Rathbun, Steve Mango, Marc Headley, Tom De Vocht, Jeff Hawkins, Andrew Perez (as David Miscavige) and Rob Alter (as Tom Cruise).

After 25 TV specials focusing on some of the most intimate and angst-ridden aspects of the human condition: religion, racism, sexuality, criminal justice and mental health, Louis Theroux has returned with a feature film about Scientology.

Using actors mixed with candid interviews between Louis and the ex-members, the film shows an amusing determination to make the documentary with increasingly bizarre interactions with the current members of the organisation where the crew are followed, filmed and confronted. All the while Louis Theroux continues to attempt a balanced perspective of the church, but the strange behaviour and constant re-buffing of the Scientologists reveals a disturbing reality.

Marty Rathbun, an ex-member and at one time the ‘Inspector General’ (the most senior executives in Scientology), responded to Louis Theroux’s call to partake in the documentary. While re-enacting an abuse scene, Marty says to Theroux, ‘I thought you liked the idea of having your face ripped off.’

‘But that was only play acting.’

Where Marty responds, ‘Exactly.’

When Marty makes this statement, it really brought home the devious nature of the religion.

Marty goes on to explain how the counselling is conducted by the Trainers, and how anxiety is cleared through the use of the e-meter. If the machine registers a response while the subject is holding the paddles, then the thought causing the anxiety will be revealed and discussed with the counsellor until the machine no longer registers a response. That means the anxiety has been cleared.

An effective counselling technique that is no doubt very helpful to the person discussing and dealing with negative thoughts.

Marty then explains how the church plants the idea that every good thing that happens in your life is because you have cleared these anxieties and is therefore to be attributed to the church and to Elbert Hubbard. And then to go on and to also contribute every bad thing that happens to the fact you’re not practicing the principles of the organisation correctly and therefore everything bad thing in your life is your fault.

This is how the church of Scientology creates a psychological trap and therefore exerts mind control over its members.

I’d recently seen another documentary on Scientology, ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief‘, also featuring Marty. Going Clear shows a negative account of the church’s practices with more focus on the tax exemption of the church as a registered religion.

Louis takes a more personal interest in Scientology with a genuine motivation to get the organisation’s side of the matter; which is continually rejected.

You can see that Louis is concerned that his advances towards the Scientologists are rejected because he’s brought Marty on board. And through-out the documentary there is tension between Marty and Theroux: an interesting personality clash where each man attempts to stare the other down.

I can understand Louis holding a negative view towards Marty, always wondering what this man has done as the ‘Inspector General’, and if he’s speaking against the church out of rejection and spite.

And here we can see the continued drive from Theroux, to be open and see the church in a positive light. But the church in its harassment and complete inability to even acknowledge Louise’s attempt at conversation only reinforce what Marty is sharing.

The success of My Scientology Movie is the revealing insight into the psychological damage that can be caused by just trying to the do the right thing, and showing the depth of control of the organisation, I mean church, that can, understandably, make you paranoid.

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