Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Scenes from a ‘Going Clear’ screening — Alex Gibney at the True/False Festival

Alex_Gibney_TF3Back in 2003-2005, your proprietor was the managing editor of a newspaper in Kansas City known as The Pitch. They were two of our happiest years, and we still have a great love for that underrated city that has a state line snaking down the middle of it. Writing film reviews for the Pitch these days is Dan Lybarger, who also turns out to have an affinity for the Underground Bunker. He attended a showing of Going Clear on Sunday at the True/False film festival, and he sent us this report…

I thought you might want to hear about a screening of the new Alex Gibney documentary at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri.

Columbia is a city of only 115,000, but it’s the home of the University of Missouri and is easy to get to because it rests in the middle of the state on I-70, almost equidistant between Kansas City and St. Louis. Many of your readers may not have heard of Columbia or True/False, but for over a decade the festival has attracted a long string of Oscar-winners and nominees who arrive in person to present their films.

Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September, The Last King of Scotland), Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me, Inside Man), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp), James Marsh (Man on Wire, The Theory of Everything) have all come to the middle of Tiger Country to present the films to audiences as large as 1,200 or 1,700 per screening. The film had no trouble filling the venue’s 835-seat capacity. Some viewers were left standing in the aisles.

I caught the movie at a 9:30 am screening, the morning that daylight savings started and after some of the festival goers had been partying late the night before. Some lucky guests received gift packets with candy and other goodies that were dubbed “hangover cures.”

As the viewers were taking their seats, a gospel trio serenaded viewers who were obviously missing church. One of the delightfully unique features of True/False is that live music of all sorts precedes the films.


As for the movie itself, it contains damning allegations about the Church of Scientology and its leadership, but what’s most striking is that the movie dares to ask how intelligent, rational people can give so much of their lives to an organization that consistently mistreats anyone who isn’t named Tom Cruise.

There was some serious giggling as the OT III or Xenu story was recited for viewers who have never seen South Park, but Going Clear consistently treats Scientologists as human beings instead of kooks.

Writer-director Paul Haggis (Crash) and actor Jason Beghe (Chicago PD) explain how Scientology seemed to help them at first. Beghe’s giddiness in describing auditing is contagious.

But as the film vividly recounts, the Church has consistently harassed and terrorized anyone who might stand a distant chance of standing in their way. Far from being the salvation of the universe, they’ve become just another one of its problems.

After a long ovation, Gibney took questions from the crowd. When he was asked about the Church’s vitriolic reaction to the film, he replied, “That was actually very good publicity.”

He referred to the videos that have been made about some of the people who took part in the movie and have been posted online by Scientology. “It’s a very aggressive campaign, and some of the documentaries, particularly for the people in the film, are very cruel and misrepresentative. Let me just give you one example. In one, Spanky Taylor, who rescued her daughter, they talk about how she left the Church and joined this shady organization called ‘CAN, the Cult Awareness Network,’ which was sued out of existence. It is true she helped out the Cult Awareness Network. It is true it got sued out of existence. What the Church of Scientology doesn’t say is that is was the Church of Scientology that sued the Cult Awareness Network out of existence,” he recounted to loud laughter.

Another person targeted by Scientology’s retaliation campaign was HBO documentary films president Sheila Nevins. But too many filmmakers like Paradise Lost Trilogy directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, for example, and too many people who love great docs, are indebted to her for supporting some of the best films around. In our crowd, Nevins is too beloved and respected to be harmed by such baseless attacks.

Take care and hail Xenu, or is it Xemu? Even Hubbard couldn’t settle on a spelling.

— Dan Lybarger, Bitter Critic


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Great actual caption: “Doing body guard duty tonight at @LACMA for the #HBO Documentary premiere of #GOINGCLEAR – Scientology and the Prison of Belief. My good pal @travispinon is pictured here with his sister Vanessa and the author of the book #LAWRENCEWRIGHT. Travis’ mom is one of the main subjects of the film. Both our families have had a big history of beef with the Church of Scientology. Really excited to see this film. Took some courage and over 100 lawyers to make it happen. #Scientology #apostateforlife”


Do it for LRH, Portland!


Actual Portland org caption: “Welcome to Staff Mrs Hailley Arezzini! Now it’s time to change the world!”


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 10, 2015 at 08:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email