Saturday, February 1, 2020
Hail Satan (2019) Directed by Penny Lane
When you hear the word Satanism, what do you think? Since the ridiculous "Satanic Panic" in the 1970s, the word has brought to mine child abuse, murder, demons from board games and variety of other things that - to be clear - have NO basis in fact. So promoting the Satanic Temple as positive force in the world seems like an uphill battle, to say the least. Penny lane's excellent documentary does just that, however.
Started more or less a joke, the temple has expanded by leaps and bounds, mostly due to their work in promoting religious freedom in the USA. In some sense they are the ultimate trolls, when a city or state decides it needs a 10 Commandments monument or giant cross on state property, something that is 100% illegal and against the constitution, the Satanic Temple steps in with a massive, beautifully done Baphomet statues to go beside the Christian symbols. It is an effective way to get the point across that one religion should not be promoted over all others.
The spokesperson for the Temple is Lucien Graves and while he looks the part, talks the talk and walks the walk, you get a clear impression he does not like the role or the attention on him personally. "Are you excited about the protest today?"the interviewer will ask. "No" is the one word response from Graves. He does, nevertheless make an effective spokesperson for the movement and handles hostile interviewers with a reasonable calm I am not sure many other people could.
Well paced and not one sided, in the sense that is covers schisms in the Satanist movement and goes over it's often spotty history, the film give the viewer a solid sense of what the actual beliefs of Satanism are and what they are trying to achieve in a country the reads of christian religious privilege. Satanists are not perfect as a religion by any means but their rules to live by are more than reasonable, fair and based in the real world. If you read them without knowing they were the rules of the Satanic Temple, you might think all religions should adopt them immediately.
Satanist as promoters of justice and equality might seem like a strange idea after decades of misinformation, but you will likely be convinced by the end of the 95 minute run time. You may not want to run out and join your local Satanist Temple chapter, but you will more likely than not agree with most of things that are trying to accomplish.