(Release Info London schedule; June 2nd, 2019, Picturehouse Central, London W1D, 7-14 Coventry Street, London, W1D 7DH, 18:45 PM)
Chronicling the extraordinary rise of one of the most colorful and controversial religious movements in 'American' history, "Hail Satan?" is an inspiring and entertaining new feature documentary from director Penny Lane. When media-savvy members of 'The Satanic Temple' organize a series of public actions designed to advocate for religious freedom and challenge corrupt authority, they prove that with little more than a clever idea, a mischievous sense of humor, and a few rebellious friends, you can speak truth to power in some truly profound ways. As charming and funny as it seems thought-provoking, "Hail Satan?" offers a timely look at a group of often misunderstood outsiders whose unwavering commitment to social and political justice has empowered thousands of people around the world.
On the steps of 'The Historic State Capitol Building' in Tallahassee, Florida, a handful of citizens wearing hooded cloaks and polyester robes hold a rally in support of Governor Rick Scott’s proposed law to allow prayer in public schools. Chanting 'Hail Satan! Hail Rick Scott!' the group’s demonically costumed spokesman announces to a smattering of TV cameras that 'The Satanic Temple' fully embraces the prospective legislation. In truth, however, these media-savvy 'Satanists' are playfully championing religious pluralism while illustrating the hypocrisy of Scott’s actions. 'The First Amendment' prohibits the government from passing any laws respecting the establishment of religion, meaning it cannot promote one religion over another, so any legislation opening the door to religious activities in school would have to accept not only 'Christianity' but unpopular religions such as 'Satanism'. Despite the event’s awkwardness and low turnout, the publicity stunt makes national news and launches the recently formed 'Satanic Temple' onto the public stage. After a hilariously vulgar 'Pink Mass' to protest the notoriously homophobic 'Westboro Baptist Church' garners the group even more attention, 'The Satanic Temple' officially opens it's international headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts. There, less than a mile from the spot where more than a dozen innocent people were executed during the witch trials of the 1690s, 'The Temple’s' enigmatic co-founder, Lucien Greaves, plans the group’s next public action.
Joining him as co-spokesperson is Detroit artist and activist Jex Blackmore, who views 'Satanism' as a way to directly confront injustice and corrupt authority throughout the world. After holding a controversial black mass ritual in Boston, infuriating thousands of 'Catholics' across the city, 'The Satanic Temple' sets it's sights on Oklahoma, where a monument to 'The Ten Commandments' has recently been erected on public grounds. Shining a spotlight on this blatant promotion of 'Christianity' by 'The Oklahoma Legislature', 'The Temple' petitions the state to add a seven-foot statue of the goat-headed deity 'Baphomet' alongside 'The Christian Marker'. When the legislature removes 'The Ten Commandments' monument rather than install a tribute to 'Satan' on government property, 'The Temple’s' clever challenge inspires hundreds of like-minded people from around the world to join their cause. Within three years, the group’s membership grows from three people to more than 100,000. But with their numbers swelling and dozens of new chapters forming in cities across the globe, increased threats of violence against 'Satanists' and disagreements within the group’s own ranks complicate 'The Temple’s' work. As a complex and costly legal battle erupts over a similar 'Ten Commandments' monument in Arkansas, Greaves, Blackmore, and their fellow 'Temple' members struggle to adjust to the movement’s explosive popularity while maintaining the integrity of their core beliefs.
In August of last year, a statue of 'Baphomet', a goat-headed, winged creature, was placed alongside a monument depicting 'The Ten Commandments' at 'The Capitol Building' in America. A lighthearted protest by 'The Satanic Temple'; against religious intolerance and for the separation of church and state. 'The Temple' was co-founded by social activist Lucien Greaves and over the course of six years evolved from a small-scale media stunt into an internationally recognised religion with hundreds of thousands of devotees. At the same time, it's one of the most controversial religious movements in 'American' history, or is it really a religion? Or a sect? Performance art? What's 'The Satanic Temple' in fact? The film follows the preparations for 'The Baphomet Stunt', witnesses strange rituals and has candid discussions with charming members and former members of 'The Temple' in this entertaining documentary, which also tackles serious issues. The film follows the growth of 'The Satanic Temple', an organization that has thrust the religion of 'Satanism' into 'The American' political arena. Specifically, 'The Satanic Temple' has acted as an effective disrupter in cases of overt 'Christian' language, symbols, and ideology being accepted or sanctioned in official government proceedings.
This film is about the relationship between occult rituals and an abiding curiosity about 'The American' political system. The complicated relationship between faith and politics in 'The United States' has always been fascinated. The film explores the controversial topic in a compelling way. In terms of the cross-section of politics and religion, it's a terrific subject for a documentary. It seems like brilliant performance art that's designed to promote religious pluralism in America. But our assumptions about 'Satanism' are incorrect. 'The Satanic Temple' members are not in fact 'Satanists'. They want to make a political point. The truth is, 'Satanism' didn’t mean what we think it means. Like most people, we grew up with the vague notion that 'Satanists' worshipped 'The Devil' and committed evil acts in the name of 'The Prince Of Darkness'. We assumed that 'Satanists' practiced animal sacrifices, at least pretended to murder babies, and things like that. All of which turned out to be completely false. So 'Satanism' is a great subject for a film because there are so many surprises right off the bat.
One of the many surprises that "Hail Satan?" has in store for viewers is just how funny and engaging 'Satanists' are in their work. As the documentary makes clear, humor can be a potent antidote to anger, fear, and ignorance. 'The Satanic Temple' has a very important message, but they frame it in a way that’s captivating and quite entertaining. However, humor and satire are much more than convenient ways to ingratiate 'Satanists' to the skeptical public. When put to good use, humor has proved to be a powerful weapon in the battle 'Satanists' and others are waging regarding the concept of religious pluralism. At the core of 'Satanism' is the understanding that having a sense of humor, and embracing ambiguity, and even trolling people to an extent, doesn’t mean you don’t truly believe in the things you’re fighting for. Those fights often involve government officials who promote 'Christianity' despite 'The First Amendment’s' clear prohibition against favoring one religion over another. That ultimately provides an interesting context in which to explore the issue of religious freedom. Engaging in humorous activity creates a framework surrounding the issue of religious liberty in America and what that means to all of us.
'The Satanic Temple' become spiritually and emotionally fulfilling to it's members. 'The Tempel' helps a huge number of people who’ve feel like outsiders come together and form a community. To publicly declare yourself a 'Satanist' is to invite a great deal of hatred and persecution. For that reason, it’s not surprising that some of 'The Satanists' in the film chose not to have their faces shown. These people have families they’re trying to protect. Although they’re not a satirical group, there’s still a lot of humor involved in their work. It's a fascinating and misunderstood religion. 'The Satanic Temple' is thriving right now because they’ve built a community of shared ideals that are religious in nature, while separating the supernatural aspect from it. That’s clearly something that serves a need for many people. It’s really important that people feel inspired to engage in radical actions in their own lives, and "Hail Satan?" provides an impetus for that energy.
One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one's own. Beliefs should conform to one's best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one's beliefs. People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one's best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.