Cleveland International Film Festival } March 22 – April 1, 2023 } Playhouse Square

Holy Hell

Year: 2016
Country: United States
Language: English
Run Time: 100 minutes

Holy Hell

Director Will Allen is in a unique position to make a documentary about cults. Not only was he in one for two decades, he was also their de facto filmmaker, leaving him with an impressive video archive. Fresh out of film school in the mid 80s, and shunned by his family for being gay, Allen found himself in California looking for spiritual guidance. He found it in the Buddhafield, a group led by a mysterious “master” named Michel, who offered a direct experience with God that he called “The Knowing.” His sessions put his supporters in a psychedelic trance-like state; though they were completely sober, you’d swear they were on LSD. Eventually, they left California for Austin, Texas, where they built a commune. This is where things got weird (well, weirder). Michel began treating his followers like slaves, forcing them to cater to his strange whims (though, as the film reveals, this erratic behavior pales in comparison to the disturbing things they’d soon discover). Through interviews with Allen and other former cult members, HOLY HELL offers an eyewitness account of cult life and the devastation that occurs when narcissism meets codependency. – E.F.

CIFF40 Screenings

Saturday, April 09, 2016 at 9:20 PM

Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 4:45 PM

Will Allen

Will Allen studied film at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He spent 22 years as a videographer and member of the Buddhafield sect.

HOLY HELL (2016)

Will Allen, Tracey Harnish, Alexandra Johnes

Will Allen, Polly Morgan

Will Allen, Sean Jarrett

Film Contact
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