EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Alex Gibney doc Going Clear to get release despite legal pressure.
Companies involved in the UK theatrical release of Alex Gibney’s controversial Scientology documentary Going Clear have come under pressure from the Church of Scientology not to release the film.
Screen understands that UK lawyers acting for the organisation have contacted at least one company and individual involved in the film’s theatrical release warning of potential copyright infringement should the film be screened in the UK.
Despite that, distributors and exhibitors – who asked not to be named - are pressing ahead with plans to show the film, which has been slightly reversioned for the UK to include captions relating to potentially sensitive material.
Broadcaster Sky Atlantic owns theatrical rights to the film and has engaged a third party distributor to service the June 26th release, which is due to reach between 10-15 UK venues.
However, marketing plans for the film have been curtailed due to the controversy surrounding the release.
Sky Atlantic - in a virtual repeat of events two years ago, when UK publishers abandoned publication of the book on which the expose documentary is based - reportedly postponed the film’s UK broadcast transmission after concerns that the film could contravene libel laws in Northern Ireland.
A spokesperson for Sky reiterated that “no transmission has been confirmed,” but Screen understands the channel is considering a September broadcast for the film.
In Sundance documentary Going Clear, Oscar-winning filmmaker Gibney interviews former members of the Church of Scientology - including filmmaker Paul Haggis - and reveals alleged abuses and strange practices within the organisation.
The well-received film was released in US cinemas and on US TV in March through HBO, drawing in more than 5.5m viewers and becoming the network’s biggest documentary premiere in almost a decade.
The Church of Scientology has previously denounced Gibney’s film as “bigoted propaganda” informed by former members whom it calls “misfits”.
In a previous statement relating to the film’s TV transmission, the organisation said: “The Church of Scientology will be entitled to seek the protection of both UK and Irish libel laws in the event that any false or defamatory content in this film is broadcast within these jurisdictions.”
Neither The Church of Scientology nor the UK law firm acting for the organisation were available for comment.
At BBC Films’ 25th anniversary party in London earlier this year, documentary-maker Louis Theroux revealed that he too is working on a film about Scientology.