Hot Docs Review: 'Deprogrammed'

(Canada, 90 min.)
Dir. Mia Donovan
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)
The endlessly peculiar world of cults come full-circle with the thought-provoking doc Deprogrammed.  Director Mia Donovan (Inside Lara Roxx) returns to the festival with the story of professional deprogrammer Ted “Black Lighting” Patrick, who made a significant, if notorious, career by extracting individuals from cults and using his deprogramming techniques to remove the ideologies brainwashed into them. Donovan’s brother Matthew is one of Ted’s last efforts, and her personal connection to this unorthodox saviour/sinner offers a wild springboard into the complicated world of unconventional organizations and the lifestyles they breed by deception and choice alike.

Patrick’s efforts are highly unorthodox, if not criminal in some cases, as he and individuals involved in previous cases recall efforts in which he extracted (re: kidnapped) cult members from their groups at the behest of concerned family members. His aggressive and unconventional techniques to dissolve the ideas branded into the brains of the cult members is akin to a de-brainwashing as he scrubs out the bad influences. Donovan shows how Patrick’s efforts can either save families or tear them apart, and her study of her own brother’s experience turns the table back on the audience to ask if all organizations are evil, or if we simply need to re-evaluate to accept beliefs and practices that are as outside the mainstream as Patrick’s own techniques. Deprogrammed is a bound to have audiences talking.

Rating: ★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

Deprogrammed screens:
-Thu, Apr 30 at TIFF Lightbox at 9:45 PM

Please visit www.hotdocs.ca for more info on this year’s festival.