The Sect (Секта/Sekta)

Director: Gela Babluani, Producer: Artyom Loginov, Anton Zaycev, Anton Shukin, Production Company: Les Films de la Strada, France, 8×42’, 2019, Rights: World 

Gela Babluani, (‘Money’ and ’13 Tzameti’ )directs The SectDemidov (Evgeny Koriakovsky), a psychotherapist who specializes in extreme deprogramming of sect members, manages a covert sect- deprogramming venture with a group of hardboiled guys using controversial shock-therapy methods. They are ordered to rescue their most influential client’s daughter Nika back to her family from a bizarre and dangerous sect who kill their members in weird vampire-like orgies. Lilya played by Svetlana Khodchenkova (Tinker tailor soldier spy, The Wolverine) is a nurse employed to assist them, who has her own traumatic past in a sect where she scarcely escaped a horrific mass suicide. She is joined by her headstrong daughter Kira who runs away from the night nursery to join them and befriends the ‘patient’ Nika, a beautiful strong-minded ex-model, that became a member of the dangerous sect after a series of problems in her private life. Very quickly she got drawn into dubious spiritual practices believing in her unique calling and became the special obsession of the sect’s leader Berk.

The deprogramming team consists of; the lawyer Pichugin who meets with the clients, Demidov who believes that sect members can only be cured – roughly, brutally, through pain, humiliation, and isolation. His assistant Korean is an undercover cop of the religious crime division unbeknown to Demidov and a survivor of “Korean Moon’s Unification Church” –  he left the sect after an accident and during his recovery he realized how brainwashed he was. He believes in Demidov’s method even while acknowledging it’s illegal. The nurse Lilya, a hypnosis expert, and a security guard.

The deprogrammers kidnap Nika, take her to a house with barred windows and start deprogramming her, using controversial methods. Nika is not left alone with her thoughts for a minute. She is being intimidated, forcing her to break with her religion. But Nika refuses to cooperate. Soon it turns out that the deprogrammers themselves are at risk – Nika is so important to the sect that they start a hunt to find her. The only person that right away fully realizes the danger of the situation is Lilya who has witnessed 39 people committing ritual suicide in her past as a sect member.

As some religious sects isolate their members from the outside world and they are asked to give all of their savings and property to the sect leaders. The attempts to delegitimize sects usually result in counter-claims against the victims. In order to get a person out of a sect, his loved ones go to psychotherapists or psychics. But there is another method – less common, aggressive, yet effective. Deprogramming. Cult exit counsellors (deprogrammers) look for sect members, kidnap them, isolate and un-brainwash them, making them renounce their beliefs and go back to normal life.
Of course, it entails the risk of criminal prosecution for both the customers and the contractors. Deprogrammers work illegally. Their services are expensive and dangerous.