Much has been documented about Scientology in the media, but Jehovah’s Witnesses have largely avoided such scrutiny

Distributor Vice Media
Producer Vice Studios; Lotus Land Entertainment
Length 1 x 120 minutes
Broadcaster Vice TV (US)

Hollywood producer Aaron Kaufman, best known for his collaborations with Robert Rodriguez on Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, has directed a film alleging corruption within the Jehovah’s Witnesses for his non-scripted debut.

A former third-generation Jehovah’s Witness himself, Kaufman felt he was in a unique position to gain access to the secretive religious group that has 9 million adherents, and spent four years researching the ways in which the leadership has protected paedophiles among its congregations. His film, Vice Versa: Crusaders, was produced by Vice Studios and Kaufman’s label Lotus Land Entertainment, with support from Moxie Pictures and RYOT.

The director was inspired by Alex Gibney’s 2015 film Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief – struck by similarities in the way the two organisations operate.

Much has been documented about Scientology in the media, but Kaufman noted that the Jehovah’s Witnesses – and its Watchtower Bible and Tract Society leadership – have largely avoided such scrutiny.

The film claims to have uncovered documents, including a database of child abusers in the group’s ranks, that were created by the Watchtower leadership to minimise legal action.

The director has emphasised that the film has been fact-checked and that the people he interviewed “didn’t just have a gripe against the religion or were critical of it” and are “people that had fundamentally had their lives altered because of the policies of the Witnesses”.

For Vice’s one-year-old distribution arm, the film is a welcome addition to its catalogue and, since it aired at the end of July, the series has already surpassed Vice TV ratings toppers including The Devil You Know and QAnon: The Search For Q, says senior vice-president Bea Hegedus.

Due to the controversial subject matter, the film is more of a cable, SVoD or pay-TV play, but that partly depends on the territory, she adds. Regular terrestrial broadcast buyers of Vice content include Channel 4 in the UK, while Vice also has an ongoing supply deal with SBS in Australia. There have also been several pre-sales to date, including to an SVoD based in Japan.