As soon as Keith Raniere was arrested and charged with sex trafficking and a bunch of other charges, it became inevitable that there would be a slew of books, movies and podcasts about him and his sex-slaver cult.
That’s because the underlying story had all the elements that make for a good story: SEX, Hollywood actresses, SEX, money, SEX, dead and missing women, SEX, a cult – and, oh yeah, SEX.
And that’s exactly what’s happened.
Escaping the NXIVM Cult
So far, only one film has been released – Escaping the NXIVM Cult – a made-for-television docudrama that first appeared on the Lifetime network on Saturday, September 21st. It was re-broadcast last night – and for those of you who still haven’t seen it, you’ll get another chance at 12:00 Noon on Saturday, October 5th.
Those who have seen the film have generally been impressed with the portrayals of the main characters – which, per Lifetime’s perspective, are Catherine Oxenberg, Keith Raniere, and India Oxenberg.
Given that this movie was based on the novel written by Catherine – Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult – it is certainly not surprising that those would be the three main characters in this movie.
As Entertainment’s review of the movie indicated, “Instead of telling of telling the story of how (Allison) Mack became one of the leaders of the group that resulted in her pleading guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges, viewers actually saw the true-crime case play out from Catherine Oxenberg’s perspective as her daughter India became brainwashed by the group. Dynasty actress Oxenberg used her own memories and writing from her book Captive: A Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult as well as all the research she did into NXIVM for the movie’s plot”.
Because the movie only covers the timespan from when Catherine and India first attended a NXIVM training seminar until when India breaks from the cult following Raniere’s arrest in Mexico, it leaves out much of the cult’s 20-year history.
There’s no mention. for example, of Gina Hutchinson’s supposed suicide, Kristin Snyder’s disappearance, the break-away of the NXIVM Nine, the Times Union award-winning series on Raniere and the cult, or the many local officials who were bribed or intimidated into allowing the cult to become an international criminal enterprise.
The film also conflates various events – and just makes up others in order to streamline the story. I say that not to be critical but simply to forewarn Frank Report readers that have not yet seen the movie to understand that it’s a “docudrama” and not a “documentary” (A docudrama is generally defined as “a dramatized television movie based on real events”).
Catherine has made clear on several occasions that she had no control over the content of the film – and given Lifetime’s reputation for maximizing the use of “creative license” in making such films, no one should be disappointed that it does not always portray what happened in real life.
The fact that this film brought some much-needed attention to the real-world dangers of cults like NXIVM is reason enough for people to watch it.
A Few Quibbles
Notwithstanding my support for the film, there are a few things that I wish Lifetime had done a better on. Such as:
I wish the film had given more credit to the role that Frank Parlato played in taking down Raniere and NXIVM. While it does show Catherine calling Frank to seek his help in getting India out of the cult – and the two of them discussing the difficulty they both faced in getting law enforcement officials to do anything – it totally omits the role that Frank played in putting together the dossier of incriminating materials that Catherine eventually delivered to the authorities.
I also wish that the film had made it clear that, although frustrated with the lack of response from law enforcement officials after he had broken the story of the brandings that were going on in DOS, Frank never once thought of giving up on his quest to take down Raniere and NXIVM.
To the contrary, the lack of any response to his initial reports on the brandings only spurred Frank on to keep digging into the story – and coming up with the names of more and more women who had been duped into getting branded with Raniere’s initials on their pubis.
It was Frank who would-be defectors were calling at all hours of the night – and asking for advice on how to escape from Raniere’s clutches.
It was Frank that others were calling to provide him with the names of more branded DOS women.
It was Frank who worked so closely with New York Times reporter Barry Meier to ensure that there was factual evidence to back up every detail in the story that Barry eventually wrote about NXIVM and DOS.
And, unbeknownst to many, it was Frank who had arranged for the story about NXIVM and DOS to be published in another major newspaper if the New York Times had procrastinated much longer.
More Serious Criticism
While many have lauded the movie and came away with the notion that it was Catherine alone who took down Nxivm, others who were deeply involved with the fight felt they got the short shrift or worse were portrayed insultingly.
This does not include Frank Parlato who said, when asked about his ridiculously diminished role, “It’s only a movie”.
But some of the people who really deserved credit – such as Bonnie Piesse, who worked hard to get Catherine to understand the danger India was in and Mark Vicente, who had a huge role in the takedown of Nxivm, [both of whom were side by side with Catherine in most of her brave endeavors] were represented very poorly and in a most unflattering light. Sarah Edmondson also comes off rather flighty and foolish in the film.
It could be called in some respects a slap in the face to those who made all the difference.
Yet, these were the people who did their best to help her rescue Catherine’s daughter and without their help and Frank Parlato’s help, India might still in Nxivm and Raniere might still branding women.
You wouldn’t know it from the movie.
At the end of the day, her critics say, Catherine might have done more to protect some of her friends and see to it that they were represented more honestly. Though Catherine has said she gave up creative control, it’s probably true that before making the deal with Lifetime, she could have insisted on some protection from distortion of her work.
While she has gained some glamour and renown from the movie of “Catherine single handed takes down the cult” – some of the very people who made it possible were hurt and insulted. What does that augur in the real world of authenticity?
You make yourself more famous but you hurt your friends who in real life actually saved you?
For those who prefer more fact-based presentations, there are several upcoming documentaries about NXIVM and Raniere that will, hopefully, be much more fact-based than the Lifetime movie. These include the following:
Beyond the Headlines: Escaping the NXIVM Cult with Gretchen Carlson – A&E: This already aired on September 21st right after the Lifetime movie – and it included terrific interviews with Catherine and Frank. We’re still looking to see if this might be rebroadcast sometime soon.
NXIVM: Self-Help or Sex Cult – E! Hollywood Story: October 6th – 10:00 PM (EDT
The Lost Women of NXIVM – Investigation Discovery: Dec. 7
The Vow – HBO 8-part series: Tentative airing in January 2020
In addition, we have also heard word of three other documentaries that may be coming out next year. One of those is being considered by the BBC – and the other two are on French and Australian television.
Books & Podcasts
Sometime soon, we will be publishing our reviews of all the NXIVM-related books that have been released to date (There are also at least two others being written right now). If any readers would like to share their thoughts on any of those books, please send an email with that information to Frank at email@example.com. And, as always, if you have a tip that you’d like to share with Frank – either on the record or anonymously – you can reach him at 716.990.5740.
You can watch “Beyond the Headlines: Escaping the NXIVM Cult with Gretchen Carlson” by going to https://www.mylifetime.com/ and signing up. I watched both this and the movie online; there wasn’t a cost/fee for signing up.
“Sarah Edmondson comes off as flighty and foolish in the film”.
Lucky for Sarah it was not an honest portrayal, in which she would have come off as “greedy and criminal”.
Agreed. “Me, meee, MEEEEEE!!!”
Is there anywhere it can be downloaded to watch (and pay for that) as it is not screened in my country?
Is this a serious reaction?
It’s Hollywood, what did you expect!
And if Allison isn’t shown as one of the leaders (like one critic pointed), it’s actually accurate.
It’s a cult and Allison was one of the victims. If she was a leader, she wouldn’t have had the collateral on her head.
Another point, most of Oxenberg’s (mother) story wasn’t based on Truth but what she believed to be the Truth.
before the release of her book. It’s obvious that she didn’t know that much of what happened.
I haven’t seen the movie but i also doubt they showed India doing the crimes she committed (Under pressure, but still…)
You have a movie based on a fictional story (the book is fictional, Cat was wrong on many points), made not as a documentary but a movie and you expect it to be realistic!?
Welcome to the fantastic world of television…
BTW, it’s better that they downplay the role of a few minor people than Raniere’s role like happens WAY TOO OFTEN around here.
I’ll tell ya who else got short shrift on the takedown congrats was Joe O’Hara who, Frank has told me, pitched in decades of his NX research assisting Frank in assembling the voluminous evidence packet Catherine presented to the FBI — down to those “tax returns” we see her handing off to Federal agents in the Lifetime show.
Catherine’s book gives far more cred to, especially, Frank and all the others. Where she did have more creative control — in her book — Catherine did share credit so I believe it was a network decision to shaft the other’s not Catherine’s.
Catherine Oxenberg did an informative and interesting interview with Variety at: https://variety.com/2019/tv/features/catherine-oxenberg-escaping-the-nxivm-cult-lifetime-movie-interview-1203335275/
Thanks for that link, it’s indeed a piece worth reading, very well-written and leaving me wishing that the author had done a longer piece.
Is the The Catherine Oxenberg Foundation mentioned, something that should be talked about more here? It’s said to provide “exit counseling” for people leaving NXIVM, and that’s indeed an important resource for those who have been involved in a high control group or cult, if done right.
I was particularly interested to see Catherine’s sensitive comments about not wanting to tell India’s story for her – with the note that she could be expected to do so in her own good time. I don’t know if that is just a hope, or a hint that something is in the works, but if India worked with a good writer that could result in something that provided real insight into what went on
And thanks for the piece reviewing the movie, Claviger.
We have previously reported that India is currently working on her memoirs. No publication date has been announced.
Lol Lifetime sure knows how to crank em out
As always great piece.
History is what the author who writes it decides…….
I am shocked Frank Parlato was mentioned at all.
…As General Eisenhower once remarked, “history is bunk”.
It was rushed. Hit half the bases without developing any of them.
It COULD have been a good movie. The acting was wonderful.
But it was rushed. A Part 1 Part 2 was needed.
If you have cable, you can watch the shows (the movie and Gretchen Carlson’s show, which was much better than the movie) whenever you want from the Lifetime website.
The worst part of the movie was when they showed Raniere bare-chested, he had no hair. it would have been easy to glue the back of a gorilla costume to his chest.
“The worst part of the movie was when they showed Raniere bare-chested, he had no hair”…….
Uh dud who cares?
You were let down because you like hairy chested men.
Scott don’t make me pull up that quote you made about Vanguard’s “hot ass”.
I didn’t say I liked hairy chested men, I said it was the worst part of the movie, because it wasn’t accurate. Raniere’s massive chest hair is part of what makes him so disgusting. You can’t pull up a quote from me about Raniere’s “hot ass,” because I never made that comment, just as you’ll never be on my radio show because you’re too scared. LOL
Bare in mind, Mark Vicente and Sarah Edmondson were not being morally brave. They were NXIVM perpetrators out to save their own asses from the NXIVM cult. They knew what they were a part of and all the bad things NXIVM did. You don’t get an immunity deal if you are innocent. They didn’t care about all the bad stuff because of all the fake status they had in the cult, the money etc. Only when they were in the firing line did they leave.
Sarah Edmondson is LOVING all the attention she is getting. Look at her instagram page. Still profiting from her cult. Mark Vicente happy to virtue signal on social media too.
Members of the mafia and terrorist groups get immunity deals. Nobody calls them brave. They are simply out to save themselves. These people are all out for themselves.
Example, according to Frank Parlato, at least two people from the cult asked NXIVM coach Kristin Kreuk to help. She said no as she wanted to save her own ass, while pretending to do on television what she should of been doing in real life. Years of pretending to be a morally righteous person as is the type of moron who joins such a cult and when the time came for it, she shriveled away like a coward. The fact that they asked her to help signals she was a person heavily involved with the cult and not some random passive member who had left years ago. They obviously know she was not naive to the cult’s bad behavior. She has publicly lied about leaving the cult in 2013 and has now been caught out for still being a member into 2016 minimum. She has had people lying to the press on her behalf and even had people contact Frank to get him to remove anything with her name. This is cowardly. Grace Park (who looks like Genghis Khan) too.
Mark Hildreth, another coward was mentioned in a NXIVM article recently, regarding recruiting a future DOS sex slave. They said they reached out to his “representatives” but did not hear back. Typical. They love to virtue signal but run like cowards when confronted.
Also, and this has never been answered, Catherine Oxenberg has said she got involved with NXIVM in 2011 through a friend. However, her ex-husband, Casper Van Dien was a member of NXIVM before 2011 and was even on the secret NXIVM summit on Necker Island in spring 2010. Wouldn’t her then husband of recruited her and his step daughter?
All the ‘names’ in the NXIVM cult just seem dirty and untrustworthy. They have had a lot of practice. They are not going to spend years and years in a ridiculous cult, participating in or at least ignoring bad things and then all of a sudden pretend to be naive little angels. The bullshit detector does not allow it.
The good thing is, when these same people, Mark Vicente, Sarah Edmondson, Kristin Kreuk, Mark Hildreth etc ever virtue signal ever again, you have an awesome “yeah but” comeback.
It looks like you don’t know how immunity works. No one knows what Vicente or Edmondson’s immunity deals absolved them of if they even received them, which to my knowledge has never been confirmed. Also, Hildreth, Park, and Kreuk didn’t even seem to be considered as crime perpetrators by the authorities. They just seem like a group of naive (and possibly dumb) celebrities who were used for it and knew nothing about what was really going on.
Yes they did. NXIVM is more than two years of DOS. Innocent people don’t take immunity deals when they give evidence and it is a fact Vicente received one.
I agree with Frank. Everyone that I told to watch did not like it either. They said it was boring. Frank should have gotten more attention. There was a lot left out. Also, she never brought up Clifton Park which we all know is where it started
Who would have thought a movie about a sex slave cult would have been so boring?