Filmmaker Amy Berg got an Oscar nomination for Deliver Us From Evil, her 2006 documentary that exposed decades of abuse within the Catholic Church.
Her new film, Prophet's Prey, looks at a manifestation of the same sickness in a different world: the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- and the church leader, Warren Jeffs.
The mainstream Mormon Church long ago gave up polygamy, but this breakaway sect still embraces the practice. Girls as young as 12 are married to much older men, including Jeffs himself, who as Berg tells us, has more than 90 wives.
As the prophet of the FLDS church, Jeffs controlled every aspect of his followers' lives -- even their paychecks went to him. Even now they live in isolated communities, and are taught to distrust the outside world.
Now serving a life sentence in in a maximum-security prison in Texas, Jeffs still leads his flock by way of prophecies that he issues from his jail cell. He actually has more power than ever -- his followers believe it is their lack of obedience that landed him in prison.
Berg spent many hours of research and interviews with former church members and survivors of abuse perpetrated by Jeffs. Since the film has started screening, 100 women have left the FLDS church. Berg hopes more will follow.
Prophet's Prey is not Berg's only film to be released this year. Her doc on Janis Joplin, Janis: Little Girl Blue screened at Venice and Toronto. She also directed a narrative feature called Every Secret Thing, with Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane, that was released last spring.
Then, there's An Open Secret, the Hollywood child sex abuse doc. Using interviews with young men who say they were abused as boys when they had dreams of breaking into the entertainment industry, the film depicts a culture of abuse perpetrated by managers, producers, union reps and directors. Several of these men are now in prison. Some have served time and been released, while others have never been charged at all.
It's hardly surprising that no one in Hollywood wanted to distribute An Open Secret, which was eventually picked up by a small distributor called Rocky Mountain Pictures. It had a limited theatrical release in June.
Among those interviewed in An Open Secret is former child actor and model Michael Egan, who last year dramatically sued well-known industry figures alleging that they had abused him when he was under age. Egan was subsequently discredited and his lawsuit was withdrawn. Berg's film was edited to remove mention of that litigation though Egan still appears in it.
We invited Berg to talk about An Open Secret on The Business this summer, but the PR company handling the doc at the time said she wasn't doing press for the film.
Berg says that was not the case, and that she did a lot of press for An Open Secret, but the release dates kept getting pushed back, so many of the press opportunities conflicted with her other projects. She stands by the film, saying it's about education and opening eyes to an industry that needs to be cleaned up.
Amy Berg, documentary filmmaker (@disarmingfilms)