HotDocs ’15 – Day 3: Deprogrammed

Ted Patrick, deprogrammer extraordinaire.
Ted Patrick, deprogrammer extraordinaire.

Deprogrammed (USA, 2015): Cult deprogramming is a complicated affair: Those in need of it won’t participate voluntarily and kidnapping and unlawful confinement is, well, illegal. In the early 70’s –the heyday of religious cult activity- a high school dropout became the foremost specialist in the subject.

Deprogrammed tells the story of said man, Ted Patrick. His methods were questionable, his results 50/50, but undoubtedly he was onto something. His main skill was his capacity to poke holes into ideologies. His modus operandi? Get the cult members to start thinking by themselves again.

Early on, Patrick got some leash from the law. He was frequently accused of kidnapping (even though parents hired him, his “patients” were old enough to refuse), but was seldom convicted and not for long, especially after the events in Guyana. During the 80’s however, legislation became tougher and the satanic cult paranoia actually got innocents damaged for life (see the West Memphis Three).

The documentary does a superb job depicting the nebulous area in which Patrick operated. Deprogrammed also establishes the need of a new strategy, especially now that ISIS and Al Qaeda is recruiting from among disgruntled young westerners and the law discourages an approach such as Patrick’s. Fascinating stuff. Three and a half prairie dogs.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.