The Story Behind the Movie: ‘Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother’s Fight To Save Her Daughter’

Catherine & India Oxenberg

The premiere of Lifetime’s dramatization of Catherine Oxenberg’s book “Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult” will be shown tonight at 8:00 PM (EDT).

Lifetime’s synopsis of the movie is as follows:
“When Catherine learns about a leadership seminar from a new organization called NXIVM, she decides to take her twenty-year-old daughter India to the professional development meeting. Led by the extremely enigmatic Keith Raniere, Catherine can’t help but shake the feeling there’s more than meets the eye with the self-help organization. Despite Catherine’s best efforts, India is drawn deeper into the cult, eventually joining a secret sorority of female members who are branded with the cult leader’s initials, ordered to maintain a restricted diet and forced to recruit other women as sex slaves. Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother’s Fight to Save Her Daughter tells the story of a mother who will stop at nothing to get her daughter back and exposes the intricate seductive power of Allison and Keith and the mental and physical abuse India fell victim to”.

You can see a trailer of the movie at

The cast will include Peter Facinelli as Keith Raniere, Andrea Roth as Catherine, Jasper Polish as India Oxenberg, and Sara Fletcher as Allison Mack.


Don’t Expect a Documentary

Lifetime is well known for taking creative liberties when it turns ripped-from-the-headlines true crime stories into made-for-TV movies – and tonight’s presentation will probably be no exception.

Even Catherine has admitted that there’s a lot of dramatization in the movie  – and that some of the characters in it are fictional or composites of several people.

MK10ART’s portrait of Catherine Oxenberg

But as she so aptly noted: the point of the movie is to expose predators like Raniere – and to make it harder for them to operate in plain sight.


The Story Behind the Movie

How there came to be a Lifetime movie is a story in and of itself. And much of that story involves Frank Parlato and the Frank Report.

As Catherine revealed in her novel, her entire life became focused on one thing – getting her daughter out of NXIVM – once she learned that India had become a member of DOS and had been branded with Keith Raniere’s initials.

India Oxenberg

She reached out to others who had been involved in NXIVM but who had left because of their increasing concern over what was going on behind the scenes.

It all worked out fortuitously.

Mark Vicente, the former co-Director of NXIVM’s Vancouver Center – and his wife, Bonnie Piesse reached out to Catherine.

It was Bonnie who first told Catherine about the branding.

They, in turn, put Catherine in touch with Sarah Edmondson, the other Co-Director of the Vancouver Center and another branded member of DOS.

Mark Vicente


Bonnie Piesse

Eventually, Catherine ran across the Frank Report when she was doing internet research on NXIVM and Raniere.

Frank had started the Frank Report in November 2015 in order to expose the travesty that had led to him being indicted for allegedly defrauding Clare and Sara Bronfman out of $1 million – and for allegedly undertaking a variety of financial transactions in order to attempt to avoid paying taxes on those and other funds.

When Catherine first reached out to Frank in the Spring of 2017 and told him about DOS and the brandings, he was understandably skeptical – and worried that she might be part of a hoax that was intended to bait him into publishing stories that were defamatory and libelous.

Who could blame him?

Raniere was now branding members of his harem – and with his initials?


Who the hell would have believed that story when they first heard it?

But Catherine, persistent as only a parent can be when they’re trying to protect one of their children, continued to provide Frank with more details about what was going on.

She also gave him others numbers to verify that what she was telling him was true.

Like Mark Vicente, Bonnie Piesse, and Sarah Edmondson. No one wanted to go on the record but they all provided additional details of the blackmail and branding operation.

Sarah Edmondson

Once he was finally convinced that it was real, Frank broke the story of the branding –and the underlying blackmailing that was part of DOS – in a series of articles starting on June 5, 2017.

The first article explained that DOS was an exclusive, secret group within NXIVM that was headed up by Raniere and Allison Mack.

It also revealed that the brandings were being administered by Dr. Danielle Roberts – who, as hard as it is to believe, is still practicing medicine in New York State.

And it explained that prior to being branded, each inductee had to provide highly damaging “collateral” such as nude photographs, admissions of misdeeds, and/or pledges of assets that would be forfeited if they ever defected.


The Cult Began to Crater

When Frank published the first articles about the brandings, many people, especially women who were slaves realized how dangerous a position they were in.

Slaves called Frank and he helped them leave the cult.  The membership of the inner core of Nxivm dwindled from around 500 to about 150 within two months.

Some who had been involved in the effort to take down Raniere figured it would just be a matter of days before federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities descended upon him and his cronies – and hauled them away in handcuffs.

In the past, allegations of money laundering, tax evasion, and immigration fraud was overlooked – especially if there were financial incentives to do so.

And to successfully prosecute allegations of rape and statutory rape, law enforcement officials usually need DNA evidence – and witnesses who would be strong enough to withstand withering cross-examinations.

But now, we were talking about blackmail and coercion – and, are-you-fucking-kidding-me, BRANDING!

C’mon – even bribed and/or intimidated law enforcement officials have to do something about that, right?

Nope – at least not in the Capital District of New York State.


Persistence Finally Pays Off

Fortunately, neither Frank nor Catherine gives up easily.

Frank was literally fighting for his life.

And Catherine was fighting for her daughter’s life.

Eventually, Catherine came to Niagara Falls, NY to meet with Frank – and to figure out what else they could do to take Raniere and NXIVM down.

Catherine arranged to meet with high-ranking officials in the Office of the New York State Attorney General – and Frank put together a plethora of evidence to back up the allegations they were both making about the numerous illegal activities of Raniere and his crime syndicate.

“Thank you very much for meeting with us – and for providing us with all this valuable information, Catherine. We’ll start investigating immediately”. Yep – sure you will…

Nada, nothing, zilch from the Office of the New York State Attorney General.

Frank and Catherine went back to the drawing board.

Finally, a glimmer of hope.

Barry Meier, a veteran reporter with the New York Times, agreed to listen to their story.

Barry Meier

Meier also interviewed others who had information about what was going on – people like Mark Vicente, Bonnie Piesse – and finally, one of the branded DOS slaves, Sarah Edmondson.

But the New York Times does not accuse someone of blackmailing and branding women without first vetting every detail of that allegation – especially not when the person being accused has access to the Bronfman sisters’ fortunes.

And so time stood still… month after month with no story being published in the New York Times and only the Frank Report continuing to dig deeper and deeper and reveal the names of more and more DOS slaves.

[Frank said he was justified in revealing the DOS slaves since they were recruiting other women into slavery.]

On October 17, 2017, the New York Times finally published Barry Meier’s story – and the accompanying photo of Sarah Edmondson displaying her brand – on Page 1.

Image result for sarah edmondson new york times photo

The rest, as they say, is history.

But even with the publication of Meier’s story, no law enforcement official in Capital District did anything about Raniere.

Not the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York. Not the FBI’s Field Office in Albany, NY.

Certainly not the New York State Police – which had become an ally of Raniere and NXIVM.

And definitely not the Office of the Albany County District Attorney which had long ago become one of their pawns.

But the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York was neither compromised nor cowed by Raniere and the Bronfmans.  And, thus, what started out as a mother’s attempt to save her daughter – and a man’s attempt to save his reputation and his life – led us to tonight’s movie on Lifetime.

Enjoy the show – and be sure to stay tuned afterward for the interviews with Catherine, Frank, and others who were instrumental in taking down Raniere and his gang.

They will appear in the documentary “Beyond the Headlines: Escaping the NXIVM Cult” with Gretchen Carlson.


From the Lifetime movie – Frank Parlato advises Catherine Oxenberg on how to get her daughter back.

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K.R. Claviger

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4 years ago

I’ll wait until Kristin Keeffe’s book is released.


[…] The Story Behind the Movie: ‘Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother’s Fight To Save Her Daughter&… […]

Hallmark Christmas Movie
Hallmark Christmas Movie
4 years ago

This movie should have been on Hallmark and a Christmas movie it was so corny. What a joke

V-week was very corny, Keith Raniere never played guitar and people didn’t show up with coolers

It makes it look like it was Catherine Oxenberg who took down NXIVM cult single-handedly because of her love for her daughter.

I’m sure she loves her daughter, but Catherine didn’t trust her gut and never did anything until she was later warned about the branding. Catherine turned over her daughter entire trust fund to her when she wasn’t mature enough to know how to responsibly spend it. The same as the Bronfman sisters. All that money down the drain and given to the crazy man.

It wasn’t Oxenberg who put together the package that was turned over to the FBI, that took a village, but she never mentions that part gives credit where credit is due. It wasn’t even Oxenberg who started calling the FBI; it was EX-NXIVM members who went first.

Matter of fact Catherine does a lot of blaming of a lot of people who helped her take down her cult and helped save her daughter. Oxenberg does, however, allow one of the main griefers of Keith Rainier to cozies up to her, Toni Natalie. If you watch her interviews outside the courthouse, who is always next to Oxenberg, Toni Natalie is getting her moments on TV and maybe even her book deal off the back of Oxenberg.

4 years ago
Can someone please clarify?
Can someone please clarify?
4 years ago

Casper Van Dien, the former husband of Catherine Oxenberg, was a member of NXIVM. He was even on the 2010 Necker Island trip with Kristin Kreuk, Allison Mack, Mark Hildreth, and the other few invited cultists.

Presumably, wouldn’t he have e been the one to introduce his own wife and stepdaughter to the cult he was already in?

Didn’t Catherine Oxenberg say a “friend” recruited her in 2011 when India first did an intensive?

Conflicting information out there, but there are pictures/proof of Casper Van Dien on Necker Island in spring 2010, a year before Oxenberg’s claim.

Who has an explanation? Frank?

Frank Parlato
4 years ago

I believe it was Catherine who brought Casper [and India] into Nxivm. I understand she was recruited by someone she knew to attend an introductory class in Los Angeles. Mark Vicente and Sarah Edmondson were the instructors.

4 years ago

It’s called Hollyweird for a reason.
Sounds pretty deceptive to me.

Python Swoope
Python Swoope
4 years ago

I thought the show did a good job of explaining the sordid events .

4 years ago

Heidi H, what is your take?

So much backstory left out. I suppose E!?

Heidi Hutchinson
Heidi Hutchinson
4 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Since you ask, I thought it was a decent telling of one victim’s story, however far too carefully crafted to avoid implicating certain NXIVM players for certain crimes not yet, maybe never, charged.

I am slightly miffed that the only mention of any teenage, much less pre-teen (or Mexican for that matter) sex targeting was an outright lie — a cover-up if you will — mentioning Keith had sex with a Mexican girl on her 18th (not 15th) birthday.

Of course, there was no trace of Emiliano Salinas, Alejandro Betancourt, Edgar Boone, etc. But then again the “male” sex was snubbed altogether — even in the portrayal of Mark Vicente’s over hair gelled character.

Might have been a quasi-Mexican chick among the extras but no trace of any imported Chihuahuan teens or Rosa Laura Junco.

The portrayal of Nancy Salzman as a marmish, button-downed prude was beyond ridiculous.

Peter Farcenelli was excellent as Keith, especially considering he had no good lines to back up the evil he exuded anyway.

Catherine Oxenberg has a lot more spark, substance and wit to her in real life than Andrea Roth portrayed. And there could have been far more chemistry between her and India’s character.

Frank Parlato’s role was dreadfully diminished from what I know it actually was and even from his portrayal in Catherine’s book, “Captive.”

Clare was barely there.

True to the Salzman/Salinas/Bronfman defense strategy, Allison Mack was the only “groomer” in sight and she appeared entirely self-motivated by some subverted possessiveness over Keith along with her own inherent evilness — another lie, IMO.

Some things the script only touched on that are fast becoming glaring facts as the truth continues to unfold include Keith’s mentality behind the branding, his need to be deified by demanding worship and that “sacrifices” be made of his acolytes.

We never see him strategizing, calculating, scheming — as he did — with any other character or alone — leaving us with little explanation as to why he was so ever so feared or revered.

Keith’s vengeance in action and command was underplayed with thrown off lines like “we’ll just sue her [Catherine] like always.”

Catherine’s mother was my favorite character.

I loved the scene of Keith’s arrest in the closet when the Federales order him to lift his hands “higher.” HA!

Gina used to play that “why didn’t you stand up or on the chair?” parlor trick with family on holidays. Then came the Keith diatribe about how we’re all programmed to fall short of our potential, serve the patriarchy, etc.

The best, truest part of it for me were the post-show interviews with Catherine, Frank and Rick Ross.

Heidi Hutchinson
Heidi Hutchinson
4 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Hi, Anon, I replied to you btw. Frank is prol holding it for a full story compilation coming soon. Thanks for asking.

4 years ago

Do you know how many women were branded in the end?

4 years ago

Ok, I just caught the real life after-show interviews with our dear leader, Mr. Parlato. I was touched by his sincererity.

But yeah, Nan Prefect does not come out looking great. As it ahould be, and to be honest, I’ve been waiting for this.

Correct me, but Nan, the “fighting againat being Keith’s lackey” knew everything at least insofar as colleral. As in, there were conversations where Prefect “cool glasses” Nancy knew the score.

Lol, how they downplayed Clare and sarah.

But yes. Dear Prefect did not look so great. As she should not. Imo.

4 years ago

Haha, loved Frank in the movie.

Burning question: did Vanguard really play quitar like that, to his adoring acolytes? Ugh. I thought piano.

And Nancy! Lol. They surely did get her Cool Prefect glasses!

So much to discuss in this narrative!

4 years ago

Dont like the movie this happem in clifton park i saw india e everyday

4 years ago

And because it is on the cable TV channel Lifetime Allison can enjoy the portrayal of her without going to the movie theater and violating her bail conditions.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083


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