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Inside a Cult: Messiah on Trial (2008)

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Note: Also aired as in UK Channel 4 --

It's believed that more than 3,000 cults exist in America today. But we seldom get to see what exactly goes on inside -- from the benign to the abusive. Who joins cults or renegade sects? What drives their beliefs? How is sex used to ensure devotion to cult leaders? And is it all just a pretext for more earthly desires? Doomsday cult leader Michael Travesser prophesied that the world would end October 31, 2007 -- but what happened? Go inside Travesser's cult to meet its leader, its followers and the dynamics that shape cult behavior.

Follow cult leader and self-proclaimed messiah Wayne Bent, aka Michael Travesser, after he made headlines when police entered the Strong City compound in New Mexico. This 66-year-old former sailor, previously called Wayne Bent, has spent nearly 20 years preparing his 56 unquestioning and devoted followers for Doomsday. They say they are all preparing for death, to go to a better place. As the programme delves into the world of Strong City, the program find out whether Michael Travesser is about to lead his cult to suicide. Will this be another tragedy like Jonestown or Waco? Or is Travesser just a skilful manipulator, who undermines his subjects before convincing them that he is the route to all wisdom? See inside this religious sect through interviews with former members.

Like David Koresh of Branch Davidian fame, Travesser started out as a Seventh-day Adventist preacher. He left the church in 1987 with a handful of followers and eventually moved to Union County, New Mexico, where Travesser got his Big Assignment.

Inside a Cult covers Bent's Judgment Day announcement, which was meant to take place on October 31, 2007. This particular date was chosen due the calculation of a Biblical prophecy number which was 490 and then adding it to the year 1517, which was when the Protestant Reformation began, which yields the year 2007. The day itself October 31,was chosen as it is the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses.

There is much to make the jaw drop in "Inside a Cult," but by its end the viewer may feel that the most stunning thing is that this film exists at all. Why would these people have let a documentarian get so close to their exceedingly eccentric world?

In this film British journalist Alex Hannaford sets out on a journey to visit The Lord Our Righteousness Church, also known as Strong City. Strong City is a community located near Clayton, Union County, New Mexico. When filmed back in 2007 the group consisted of about 50 members and it's leader was Wayne Bent or rather Michael Travesser to those in the "church". Eddie Stafford, the director and cinematographer, was admitted to the group's compound and invited to interview both leader and followers. His camera catches one incredible detail after another: it was God's will that Mr. Travesser, 66, sleep with other men's wives, including his own daughter-in-law, and that assorted young women and under-age girls lie nude with him.

Compelling and often disturbing, Inside a Cult is a fascinating view inside a world many have wondered about, but don't get to experience firsthand.

Technical Specs:
Video Codec: x264 CABAC High@L5.1
Video Bitrate: 3 029 Kbps
Video Resolution: 1280x720
Display Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frames Per Second: 29.970 fps
Audio Codec: AC3
Audio Bitrate: 384 kb/s CBR 48000 Hz
Audio Streams: 6
Audio Languages: english
RunTime Per Part: 45 min 46 s
Number Of Parts: 1
Part Size: 1.09 GB
Source: HDTV
Encoded by: DHD @ MVGroup