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Focus on Scientology

Hardy GraupnerJuly 30, 2008

Film companies in Germany are now making attempts to look behind what they believe is the true nature of Scientology. The movies are primarily aimed at young people, who are most likely to fall for the organization.

Close-up of Tom Cruise's head
US actor Tom Cruise is one of Scientology's major figureheadsImage: AP

Young people tend to be the first to fall for Scientology and are therefore much courted by the group's scouts across the nation. This is where a new, 25-minute film by the Matthias Film company comes in. It shows interviews with Scientology leaders, former members who have turned their backs on the organization and representatives of state authorities.

The film aims to inform young people about the objectives and policies of Scientology, which does not have the status of a religious organization in Germany. It is under the surveillance of intelligence officers, because Scientology leaders are believed to work against the country's free democratic order. Currently, the sect has between 5,000 and 6,000 members in Germany.

But according to the film company's press spokesman, Thomas Krueger, the film is not meant to be yet another piece of straightforward anti-Scientology propaganda.

"It allows viewers to just listen to the statements and assertions made, compare them, and then draw their own conclusions," he said, adding that the exclusive material for the film has been collected in the United States, Austria and Germany.

Better safe than sorry

Facial Portrait of Scientology founder Ron Hubbard
Ron Hubbard is the founder of the controversial Scientology sectImage: dpa

The film production has been supported by the Protestant church in the southern German state of Bavaria.

"The film comes at a crucial time when Scientology activists are stepping up efforts to lure young people into the organization," said Protestant Bishop Johannes Friedrich, who is responsible for Bavaria. "Everyone has a right to know what Scientology is after and stands for before dealing with the organization's campaigners."

The film is primarily meant to be distributed to schools. Friedrich speaks of a very modern film production with swift cuts and impressive sound that may make previous films on Scientology look awkward.

"I hope that the film can go a long way towards enlightenment by showing honest portraits of protagonists from both sides of the fence," he said.

German public television to follow suit

Protersters in front of Scientology's new building in Berlin holding up a banner that reads No to brainwashing!
Protersters rally in front of Scientology's new building in BerlinImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Germany's regional SWR public television network has also discovered the need for a film on Scientology.

Its fiction movie, which is currently in production, will tell the story of a Scientology member who is desperately trying to leave the sect behind. But his drop-out plans prove a tall order as sect leaders won't let him off the hook and ratchet up the psychological pressure on him.

SWR hasn't set a date yet when the film will first air on German television. But it's already secured itself a prime-time slot straight after the evening news. The network's production is billed as the first German feature film that deals with Scientology in a critical fashion.

In the German media, the organization was much highlighted again recently when it opened a large new office in Berlin amid vociferous protests from municipal authorities, nearby schools and residents living in the vicinity.