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Great Storytelling
1 March 2018
The documentary series, The Radical Story of Patty Hearst, was absorbing, great storytelling. Superb, first-rate. A person can watch it and come to either conclusion, that Patricia Hearst volunteered for urban terrorism or that all of her behaviour is the consequence of kidnapping and therefore excused. In the 1970s as a teenager, I thought all was excused and, even with this documentary, I still feel that way, with regards to the wise counsel of the great Jeffrey Toobin, who believes otherwise, and the splendid frankness of Bill Harris, one of the kidnappers. The documentary is, as well, a redemption for CNN signing onto that sloppy documentary, Holy Hell, which gave a fright for CNN's news integrity. All's well.
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Holy Hell (2016)
The Documentary Makes A Case Against Itself
1 September 2016
Posted to IMDb, September 1, 2016, about the CNN documentary Holy Hell _________ The Documentary Makes A Case Against Itself I just watched the CNN premiere presentation of this documentary and I'm baffled that it signed onto this. I give the documentary one star for utterly failing to achieve what I sense was its purpose, to establish that a cult existed and that the leader of the cult was a demon. I give the documentary ten stars for allowing us a glimpse of people who chose to enroll in a community, stayed there for a very long time with pleasure (over 20 years!), then voyaged to a different aspect of life as we all do, but look backward in time at themselves with ridicule. They've concluded that, once upon a time, they were weird. But rather than doing the hard work of examining themselves, they blame the community's leader for their own, long-running, rather voluntary choices. They come across as feeble, as we all can be, and foolish, as we all can be, but they come across as particularly feeble and foolish. They don't seem to have emerged out of that state yet. They do nothing to expose the leader of the community as much as they expose themselves. The documentary is about them, not him, and in that way, a triumph. No one seemed forced to be part of the community. Again and again, you get the impression, as one former community member said, that the great outweighed the bad for everyone. I suppose that's the tale of life for everyone (with exceptions). Maybe the leader is an evil guy, maybe he is, as the documentary's title suggests, the leader of Holy Hell, but not by the accounts of the documentary.

I think Dan Gillespie, in the March 10, 2016 review below, captured things perfectly and wittily when he said: "Here's the basic deal: a bunch of tree-huggers hang out with some guy who likes to swim and dance, then they decide not to hang out with him because they became disillusioned, then ten years later they are upset because they spent their youth hugging trees."
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