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Scientologists begin their backlash against The Master as it wins honors at the Venice Film Festival

09.11.2012

As THE MASTER wins the Silver Lion for best director and a split Best Actor award for both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix at the Venice Film Festival, angry Scientologists have begun to harass The Weinstein Company with protests over the film's content.

According to The New York Post, church members have been “inundating” the distributor, The Weinstein Co., with "strange calls" criticizing the picture. Members may also be planning further strategy to discredit the film following the release next week. These plans could include a dedicated Scientology-funded ad campaign, promoting the church's message wherever THE MASTER is being advertised.

The argument over whether THE MASTER is actually about Scientology has been going on since it was first announced years ago. The plot of the film is centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as "the Master" whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man. That and the fact that, despite the film's stars and director claiming it is not about the religion created by L. Ron Hubbard, there are striking similarities. The Daily Beast even had a former Scientologist pore through the screenplay and discovered over twenty similarities between the religion and the film. We are not talking about stretches either. In some cases, PT Anderson simply removed a couple of words from actual documented Scientology documents to include in his dialogue.

In either case, the tactics by Scientologists are in line with past situations where their secretive organization was the focus of media attention, most recently with the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce and last year's book "Inside Scientology". The group has a deep grasp in Hollywood that some fear may be exposed in a negative light by THE MASTER. Whether or not that will translate to any effect on the box office or critical reaction to the film is hard to say. But the fact that the Venice Film Festival judges had to choose which award to give the film to maximize their praise should be a sign of things to come.

THE MASTER opens in limited release this Friday and everywhere on September 21st.

Extra Tidbit: Venice Film Festival rules state that the winner of the Golden Lion (best picture) cannot win any other awards. So, they decided to spread the praise around for THE MASTER.

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