Fresh from its stunning world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, CNN Films has acquired HOLY HELL, directed by Will Allen and executive produced by Jared Leto, it was announced today. CNN Films purchased U.S. domestic broadcast rights to the feature for telecast later this year.
“We are really pleased to bring this electrifying project to CNN Films,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide. “This cautionary story is made uniquely insightful by the deeply personal perspectives of Will Allen – and the film speaks to the broader search we all share for finding fulfillment.”
Allen’s HOLY HELL captures what life was like in the mysterious, California-based spiritual community, the Buddhafield. Just out of film school, a young, idealistic Allen was introduced to the Buddhafield by his older sister, eventually becoming a personal aide to Michel, “the teacher.” As a member and unofficial documentarian of the utopian group for 22 years, Allen’s film of his fellow followers and Michel is both revealing and intimate. Allen’s singular point of view offers a compelling exploration of why the Buddhafield, and its even more mysterious, charismatic leader, are powerfully attractive and terrifying at the same time.
After many painful years, Allen eventually found the courage to leave the Buddhafield – taking hundreds of hours of his footage with him. Since leaving, Allen has grown increasingly fearful of the guru and the guru’s continuing extreme influence over some followers, voicing his fears even at the film’s festival premiere in January.
Jared Leto, now an executive producer for the film, described HOLY HELL as “relentless, haunting, and unforgettable” to Variety last month.
HOLY HELL is produced by Allen, Tracey Harnish, and Alexandra Johnes. The CNN Films acquisition of HOLY HELL was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, vice president of business affairs on behalf of CNN, and Andrew Herwitz of The Film Sales Company, and Michael Donaldson and Dean Cheley of Donaldson + Callif, on behalf of the filmmakers.