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“Isn’t this a hoax?” asks a news reporter. This is the question at the heart of Penny Lane’s (Nuts!, Our Nixon) impish documentary about the Satanic Temple. Founded in 2013, the group claim to “refine” satanism “as a weapon in the ongoing culture wars”, positioning themselves as a counterbalancing force against evangelical Christianity and the pernicious conflation of church and state.
“I used to be a zesty little atheist,” smirks a new believer. But being an atheist is boring, he insists. There’s no community, no code of ethics. Indeed, the community Lane zeroes in on is one of charming, articulate oddballs; with his glass eye and reasonable baritone, co-founder Lucien Greaves, in particular, is a charismatic antihero.
Though she takes her subjects seriously, Lane allows herself to be led by her sense of humour. A statue of a 10ft goat-headed demon – a monument to Satan, set to reside next to the Ten Commandments monument in Little Rock, Arkansas – is a provocative middle finger to the widespread acceptance of religious iconography. An anti-anti-abortion rally that sees the satanists dress as fetish-inspired adult babies is even funnier. “The meaning is a bit lost on us,” says an innocent passer-by. It’s no accident that Lane titles her film Hail Satan?, opting for a curious question mark rather than an ecstatic exclamation point. Though the film mostly makes a persuasive case for the Temple’s legitimacy and its leftist values of science, tolerance and pluralism, you suspect she remains unconverted.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Hail Satan? review – devilish intentions | Documentary films