There’s nothing in the teaser trailer for HBO’s new Scientology documentary about alien souls, or the Galactic Federation or even Tom Cruise. In fact, there’s little specific information of any kind. Instead, director Alex Gibney has given us a series of frenetic voiceovers with sweeping views of the movement’s Los Angeles Celebrity Center.
But this lack of specificity is merely a stand-in for the shadowy nature of the organization, which claims to help its adherents “go clear”–i.e. purify their souls. Gibney’s teaser itself may not provide much clarity, but it definitely piques our curiosity. One of the first words we hear spoken in the trailer is “cult,” and this looms over the entire minute-long spot. (Scientology itself has only added to the build-up, by drawing panicked attention to the film.)
The movie is based on Lawrence Wright’s best-selling book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, which painstakingly details the checkered past of founder L. Ron Hubbard and its current leader David Miscavige, who has run the organization through fear, intimidation and outright physical abuse. At its core, the book seeks to explain why people stay–how they become imprisoned in their belief. And it’s likely the documentary will tread similar ground. “There is no logical explanation other than faith,” is the last thing we hear before the trailer ends.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief premiers on HBO at 8 p.m. on March 29.