The great thing about each film festival is sometimes you’ll come across a film intended to shock, inform and challenge your way of thinking. This year is no different. One film sure to stir up some very interesting conversations is Penny Lane’s, “Hail Satan?”.
Lane takes us into the world of the followers of The Satanic Temple. In this film, we learn what the 7 tenets of Satanism are; we explore the Satanic Panic of the 80’s and 90’s, we dive deep into religious hypocrisy and long held (albeit misguided) beliefs. All while naked men and women cover their bodies with milk and dance with snakes.
However, if you’re expecting to see blood sacrifices, animal slaughter, sodomy, or violence, you’ll find none of the sort. Many of the “rituals” are just performance art and even the members admit to trolling a bit.
Still, Lane makes sure to give us complete context on where the Satanists are coming from particularly when it comes to the separation of church and state. The Satanists become embroiled in a battle with the Arkansas legislature over a monument of the 10 commandments being erected at the State Capitol. And they fight vigorously to either have it removed or share the space with a monument to Baphomet–a winged, goat-faced creature sitting on a throne with two smiling children at his sides. Needless to say, it’s this battle that makes the film worthwhile.
But with “Satan” in their name, they are often dismissed and/or reviled. The film does an excellent job in holding up the mirror at ourselves and questioning the veracity with which we are so quick to demean anyone with a different perspective.
We see the Satanists as activists, fighters against injustice and discrimination. Champions for racial and sexual equality. Proponents of science, and the life you live rather than the after life you hope for.
The film doesn’t ask you to convert. It doesn’t give you the impression that the Satanists have it all figured out and every other religion is crazy. The film simply asks the question: What about this perspective? And leaves it to the viewer to answer.
Should we hold tight to traditional Judaeo Christian beliefs or is it okay to live/ think/ behave/ love/ act/ be a different way, even if it is in the name of Satan?