Holy Hell Cults in America

When one thinks of a cult, they think of the brainwashed individuals controlled by a manipulative and ego-fueled individual. Often times, well known cults such as Jonestown (made infamous by its mass suicide) paint the picture of what a cult is like. The experience is much more complex than cults like Jonestown depict. The documentary "Holy Hell" dives into the complicated dynamics of the realities of cult life.

Michel Rostand, leader of the L.A. based cult, the "Buddhafield".

"The Buddhafield" cult began originally as an alternative community and meditation group in West Hollywood in 1985. The cult leader, Michel Rostand, was described by many of his followers to be "ethereal and other-worldly". In other words, Michel was seen as a charismatic man, an affect that is often seen in cult leaders. After the first year as an "alternative community", The Buddhafield eventually grew to over a hundred members. This dedicated following of people harnessed a feeling of power in Mishel. And it is well known that with power, very often, comes corruption.

Director and former cult member Will Allen unfolds the corruption within through a first hand retelling. The documentary, which premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, includes real footage from Allen's 22 years in The Buddhafield.

Still shots from actual footage Allen took depicting life within the cult.

Under the guise of spiritual fulfillment, Mishel manipulated his cult members into believing he was of divine nature, in direct contact with God himself. As a result, cult members competed for his attention and desperately sought his approval.

In reality, though, Mishel was in no way divine. Instead, he was a narcissist with a god complex, employing fear and manipulation into his members in order to maintain control.

"Holy Hell" follows the journey of many Buddhafield members as they came to learn of Mishel's lies and deceit. The documentary is a candid look at their pain, betrayal, and emotional scarring from this experience. Regardless of the former cult members current day advocacy, Mishel still remains at large. He is still leading a cult to this day under a false name.

Created By
Gabrielle Negro
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