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Award winning filmmaker, Ondi Timoner, follows four families as they leave an abusive church in South Carolina and realize they have been in a cult. The film documents them as they enter Wellspring, the only accredited, live-in cult treatment facility in the world, where they learn the true extent of the brainwashing they have all experienced. Eventually they return home to bring the Pastor and his wife to justice and try to begin to rebuild their damaged lives. Written by
At what point does the spanking of a child become a beating? At what point does a community church become a cult? Those two questions are at the center of "Join Us" wherein disgruntled members of a small church in South Carolina leave the church and wish to file charges against their former pastor. The ex-members apparently stood by while the pastor beat their children while they watched, as the beatings were backed up by verses in the Bible. The pastor even recounts the Old Testament law wherein it was permissible to stone a rebellious child to death if necessary. The pastor and his ultra-faithful wife defend all the charges against them with the wife stressing that what they did may seem "cultish" to outsiders, everything was done with the best intentions. The ex-members go to a cult deprogramming center, said to be the only one in the USA, and are encouraged to ask questions and to think for themselves once again, instead of hanging onto the pastor's every controlling word. In an attempt to entrap the pastor into admitting child abuse one of the ex-members of the church goes to see him and his wife while wearing a hidden camera and microphone. Somehow the wiley pastor never cops to the charges while being recorded. His wife is heard in a recorded phone conversation stating that the pastor has stage one Alzheimer's disease and later states that the ex-members should leave him alone because of his "sick mind." Later, in a separate conversation, we hear the pastor declare that there have been some allegations about him having Alzheimer's and then adds that those who say that are "liars!" The look on the woman's face who heard his own wife state that he has Alzeimer's Disease is priceless.
It's an interesting movie about how easily some minds can be controlled and how some churches could be considered cults but it's definitely not totally convincing, but it does raise some interesting questions.
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