Hot Docs 2015: Deprogrammed

Deprogrammed Ted Patrick’s anti-cult crusade of the 1970s is at the centre of Deprogrammed.  Playing into counter-culture, the 1970s saw the rise of alternative religious and radical communes, such as the Christ Family, Moonies, and the Hare Krishnas.  This would lead to Ted “Black Lightning” Patrick to begin helping concerned families by kidnapping cult members and performing controversial “reverse brainwashing” techniques.  Whether Patrick’s methods actually worked is open to interpretation.

Deprogrammed is influenced by filmmaker Mia Donovan, whose step brother Matthew was deprogrammed by Ted Patrick 18 years ago, after Matthew’s love of heavy metal music spurred fears of Satanism.  This leads Donovan to trace Ted Patrick’s career back to its beginnings in 1971.  Deprogramming was a highly controversial act, which often involved kidnapping and holding cult members against their will.  The film interviews many of the individuals deprogrammed by Patrick, some of whom believed he helped them, while others believe that he did more harm than good.

By definition, a cult is merely a belief system that isn’t widely accepted by the establishment.  That said, tragedies such as Jonestown in 1978 proved how dangerous cults can be.  Deprogrammed really leaves it up to interpretation whether Ted Patrick’s methods truly helped to recondition cult members back into society.  Deprogramming took a hit when cults, particularly Scientology, struck back in the 1980s and it now all but ceases to exist, with remaining deprogrammers now calling themselves exit counsellors, who no longer use Ted Patrick’s methods. Altogether, Deprogrammed is an interesting look at this controversial field. ★ ★ ★ ★ | LIKED IT

Liked this? Help support Sean Kelly and his writing about film on Patreon!

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).