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HOLY HELL: Escaping Buddhafield cult with filmmaker Will Allen & Chris Johnston

  • Broadcast in Entertainment



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In 1985, film-school graduate Will Allen found an exciting alternative community in Los Angeles. Always curious about the meaning of life, Allen was lured by a charismatic guru known as Michel, who seemed able to answers his questions. With little hesitation, he joined Buddhafield, a group where love and enlightenment flowed in abundance. It wasn’t until 22 years later that Allen realized he belonged to a cult. “There’s always someone who brings you or invites you,” Allen said. “My sister invited me. It felt very safe having her bring me. When someone you already trust is there, everyone becomes your friends instantly.”

Allen’s film-school stint led to a role as documentarian. Armed with hours of footage of life inside, Allen made “Holy Hell,” a doc that premiered at Sundance and on CNN.  Combining interviews with former devotees and Buddhafield archives, “Holy Hell” charts the cult’s rise in Reagan-era California and the implosion that prompted many members to flee in 2006. Will and fellow former member Chris Johnston discuss the rise and fall of Buddhafield and how they recovered. Chris lectures on the experience to help others. 

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