Based on a True Story TV Movie Portrays Dark Side of Scientology

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Part 2: Fighting for Custody


The 89-minute film tells the story of a man who stumbles into Scientology and ends up fighting for custody of his child. The plot also includes a trip to a sort of disciplinary camp which is part of the organization's European headquarters, as well as the man's wife's sudden disappearance to a center in Florida and his daughter being sent to a secret boarding school.

ARD has invested €2.5 million ($3.5 million) into the film. SWR's Carl Bergengruen invested that sum in fastidious research, good actors and precise reconstructions of the locations.

Photo Gallery

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Photo Gallery: Escaping from Scientology

Although some details of the story have been changed, it is astonishing to see just how far Rönn is willing to go in dealing with his own story. But now he is worried that someone might poison his dog or break his windows.

Until now, this kind of material was considered nearly impossible to film for legal reasons. Filmmakers saw it as practically certain that Scientology would go to court to stop the broadcasting of any movies that dealt with the organization. Instead, the German media was full of debates about whether the organization was compatible with the German constitution and horror stories about brainwashing by the group. There was nothing in between.

Under Observation

Now Bergengruen has bridged the gap. The impetus for the project was none other than actor and celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise. When Bergengruen saw Cruise being showered with respect as he won a prestigious German media award in November 2007, he decided he had had enough.

But there is another reason why this dramatic subject is now appearing on German TV screens as a piece of evening entertainment. Real-life controversies are generally only given the fictional treatment after a certain degree of distance to the subject has been reached. And it has already been several years since the most intense clashes between the German state and Scientology.

Nevertheless, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which monitors activities by the Church of Scientology in Germany, still considers the organization to be as danger as ever. In a 2004 ruling, an administrative court in Cologne ruled that there was good reason to "monitor" the organization "in particular using the methods of the intelligence services."

Bitter Reality

Heiner von Rönn was recently invited to watch a preview screening of the TV movie together with the film crew. Rönn sat in the front row of the projection room with his dog. When it came to a scene in the film where the protagonist sees his child for the last time, Rönn began to cry.

The movie ends with that scene. The Rönns' lives, however, go on. After the viewing, they drove home to their three-room apartment on the edge of Hamburg. Astrid von Rönn uses the children's former bedroom to store the laundry. That's the reality of their lives.

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Norberto_Tyr 02/03/2010
1. Quousque tandem abutere, Entertainers, patientia nostra?
Just continue with the censorship and then cynically complain when people that does not suck the dummy, such as Bishop Williamson between many, dares not receiving you guys, the owners of the 'western free press'. Stop framing the comments with the cynical 'rule' 'off topic'. Not everyone is so stupid to swallow the hook and accept censorship disguised as 'digression prevention'. It is very clear that been 'on topic' means implicitly accepting the bias and the framing subliminally embedded in the article from the start. True free press have only one rule like war: 'the only rule is that there are no rules', otherwise 'free press' is just a business to make money as quickly as possible violating as many laws as possible without been caught.
fear_less 02/04/2010
2. "Scientology good--Germany Bad!"
Zitat von sysopA new German TV movie tells the story of a man who lost his wife and child after joining the Church of Scientology. The drama, which is based on a true story, was filmed in secret to prevent the organization taking legal action against the project. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,675298,00.html
Back in the 1990s, I remember John Travolta's appearance on the Tonight Show, where he was being quite vocal in criticizing Germany's restrictive policies against Scientology. The audience applauded and Leno nodded in support of Travolta's expressed disdain over the lack of "Freedom of Religion" in Germany. Hopefully, some of those people may since have changed their minds about the 'religiousness' and/or legitimacy of that organization. And KUDOS to SWR and Mr. Bergengruen for having the courage to make this film!
alsothis 03/15/2010
3. Wow
Zitat von Norberto_TyrJust continue with the censorship and then cynically complain when people that does not suck the dummy, such as Bishop Williamson between many, dares not receiving you guys, the owners of the 'western free press'. Stop framing the comments with the cynical 'rule' 'off topic'. Not everyone is so stupid to swallow the hook and accept censorship disguised as 'digression prevention'. It is very clear that been 'on topic' means implicitly accepting the bias and the framing subliminally embedded in the article from the start. True free press have only one rule like war: 'the only rule is that there are no rules', otherwise 'free press' is just a business to make money as quickly as possible violating as many laws as possible without been caught.
You sound scientologist.
Karin 03/15/2010
4. Superb
It is vital to share both sides. To showcase only one side be it positive or, negative does not provide for a solid frame set to make ones choice in any given subject matter. This organization obviously wishes to showcase only one side; the positive side, to establish more funds for their organization. Obviously, having negative information about their organization will hinder their ability to enrich their pockets. Which is perfectly understandable. But, shame on them. Besides, I hate cults. The day will be grand when one can say; "Good riddance".
reinhardfreiheit 06/22/2010
5.
There is no point in sharing anything when the other person (like Karin) categorizes people and even admits “I hate” those in that category. How is this not bigotry? You are proving my point by saying, that what they are doing is “perfectly understandable” and yet follow it by “But, shame on them”. Not that I am defending Scientology, they desserve their criticism. But for an intolerant person to attack somebody for being intolerant is hypocritic. When a government does it, and puts the power of the SECRET service behind it, does this not bring back memories of the term Gestapo? I contend it is more courageous to stand up to secret government action than to use other people’s money (taxes), to make a film under the veil of secrecy, that plays to the public opinion (of hate) for this organization. There were also films “based on true stories” about Jews being the root of all evil - by the same country’s government under an equally democratically elected chancelor in the 1930’s. If the government sponsored film maker decides that secrecy was necessary to prevent LEGAL action then we must prevent from allowing the rule of law. And if he says it is “based on a true story” it is just as a good as a jury verdict. Never mind that those who allege or imply crimes took no legal action and yet the almighty government is afraid of legal action from those who they present as the offenders, and which they classify as a “business”. What they are afraid? Is it that people may find out that there is “freedom of religion” in Germany only as long as you agree with the government, and either are christian or atheist.
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