23: "Leave With Us"

When I was doing a bit of research for this film, I went right to the Heaven's Gate website.  For those who don't know or don't remember Heaven's Gate, they were a religious cult that believed that there was a UFO traveling directly behind the Hale-Bopp comet that was going to fly very close to the Earth sometime in late March/early April of 1997.  According to their teacher/leader, they all needed to evacuate the Earth before it became "recycled" and catching the UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet was their best chance.  A mass suicide ensued...in shifts.  On March 26, 1997, all 39 members of Heaven's Gate were found in a San Diego mansion, all neatly lying face up in beds (mostly bunk beds) dressed in black track suits and black Nike "Decades".  A death uniform, if you will.  They ate a concoction of phenobarbital and vodka mixed in applesauce.  Then they tied plastic bags around their heads so they would suffocate after they went into a drug induced coma.  They then laid a shroud over the top half of their bodies...and evacuated.  15 members died on the 24th of March.  Another 15 on the 25th.  And the remaining 9 on the 26th.

Like so:

What's most interesting to me were all of the thoughtful, almost cute, things these folks did leading up to this horrifying event.  They had patches made to add to the left arm of their track suits that read "Heaven's Gate Away Team".  They were all found with $5.75 in their pockets because they "needed bus fare"...an inside joke.  The most interesting thing about all of this, for me, is the videotaped goodbyes these people did before committing suicide.  They were so...happy.  So very ready to welcome their end.  So appreciative that this is what they chose, or what was chosen for them.  They are examples of people who don't have a single care in the world, have full faith in their own particular God, and are 100% ready to die for it.

In hindsight, it's particularly haunting to see on their website that they have recruitment videotapes (free of charge) with them urging the viewer to "Leave With Us".

Leave.  With.  Us.  Those are pretty dangerous words.  They got me thinking of every single religious fanatic who killed other people while killing themselves...including Heaven's Gate.  It's nothing new that humans have been killing each other in the name of God for thousands of years.  So, the point of this film isn't really to state that people are stupidly murdering each other because of God. It's more a film I made for God...to show it/him/her what they've done.  That people are willing to fly airliners into the world's tallest buildings for you.  They are willing to veer cars off the road and run over unsuspecting pedestrians completely by surprise for you.  They are willing to carry a bomb in a backpack and walk into a restaurant and blow themselves and 50 other people to bits.  Or cowardly leave a bag with a bomb in it on the sidewalk during a marathon and blow people's entire legs off.  They are willing to hang people from trees while burning a cross.  All that, for you.  It's a testament to your greatness!

One of the many tapes showing the first plane flying into the World Trade Center features someone screaming "Holy Shit!" moments before it hit the first tower.  Holy.  Shit.  Truer words have never been spoken.


Nothing much to say about the making of this except that I wish I had more time.  This film was done in one really long day (about 16 hours).  Life and other work are getting in the way of making these, but I really want to get back to giving myself time to step back, then come back and look at it fresh.  Rushing a film out the door is never what I intended with this project.  It's ok to be over ambitious but I do feel like it was at this film's detriment.  I think maybe after this whole project is said and done, I'll go back to touch the films that didn't get all of the proper attention they deserved.  This one, so far, is at the top of the list.

Some stills from the film: