Never-before-seen footage shows inside the NXIVM sex cult as the Dalai Lama blesses its leaders after he was given $1m donation and Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson describes her fight to leave
- HBO will begin airing a nine-part documentary, The Vow, on Sunday night
- The show promises 'a deep, nuanced look' at the NXIVM sex cult
- The new show features previously-unseen footage from a high ranking member
- The series shows the Dalai Lama, who was paid $1m to address a meeting
- Many Nxivm leaders have been charged with sex trafficking and racketeering
- Cult leader Keith Raniere was convicted in June 2019 and is awaiting sentencing
Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson, who left the cult in 2017, describes how she was recruited into NXIVM and how she managed to break free
Never-before-seen footage will show what life was like inside the notorious sex cult NXIVM - including scenes where the Dalai Lama blesses its members after being paid $1 million, and actress Sarah Edmondson describes her terrifying ordeal of breaking away.
The Vow, which will air on HBO on Sunday, features previously unseen footage filmed by one of the group's senior figures Mark Vicente.
He handed over a wealth of archival footage to Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer - the team behind The Great Hack and Control Room.
Among the footage are previously unseen scenes from the Dalai Lama's visit to the cult in Albany in 2009.
In 2018, DailyMail.com revealed the Dalai Lama was paid $1 million to travel to America to endorse the controversial cult. The religious leader was paid to speak to 3,000 followers of NXIVM and place a khata - a traditional ceremonial Tibetan scarf - around the neck of the group's founder, Keith Raniere.
The series also follows a number of people deeply involved in the self-improvement group over the course of several years.
It also strongly features the story of Canadian actress Sarah Edmondson who left the cult in 2017 along with Vincente and his wife Bonnie Piesse.
Their move was risky because the group is known for being highly litigious, breaking and entering into former employees’ homes and seeking revenge.
Edmondson described in the documentary how she was taken blindfolded to Smallville actress Allison Mack’s house for a two-hour ritual, and then forced to watch her friends scream as they were branded with Raniere's initials.
'I was just thinking, "How the f*** am I gonna get out?,"' she said.
'And they weren’t doing well. They were squirming, they were crying, they were twitching, they were sweating.'
The Dalai Lama is shown garlanding NXIVM founder Keith Raniere in the new documentary
Raniere, the NXIVM founder, was convicted of sex trafficking and other charges in June 2019
In a clip from the documentary, Raniere says: 'I have a vision of what it could be like to be a human - to experience connection, passion, love.'
He describes NXIVM as 'a methodology for enhancing human experience and behavior.'
Raniere, 59, is currently in jail awaiting sentencing, having been found guilty in June 2019 of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, human trafficking and multiple counts of racketeering — including sexual exploitation of a child. He will be sentenced in October.
Mark Vicente, a former high-ranking member of the group, provided much of the footage
Former NXIVM members have spoken about the New York company, known as Executive Success Programs, or ESP, offered lessons on how to change habitual behaviors, reject needless fear, and gain full control over their response to any situation.
In 2017, it was revealed that the workshops, operating near Albany under an umbrella group called NXIVM, were concealing a sex cult.
Members were turned into slaves, made to eat restricted-calorie diets, forced into bed with the company's founder and branded on their pelvis with the Raniere's initials.
'This actually helps you so you can build love,' says one woman in the trailer.
Another describes NXIVM as 'the family I have been looking for my whole life'.
A third states: 'It is manipulative, but it's a good manipulation.'
In the documentary, previewed by the New York Post, Vicente says of his first meeting with Raniere: 'There was part of me that was like, "This is the dude?" '
A pianist, judo master and self-styled scientist, Raniere kissed everybody on the lips as a greeting.
'If this guy created all these things that are helping so many people, who cares about the kissing-on-the-lips thing?,' said Bonnie Piesse, the actress who played young Aunt Beru in 'Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith,' in the documentary.
NXIVM recruited successful actresses, such as members Allison Mack (right) and Nicki Clyne
Smallville actress Mack was one of the most senior members of the sex cult
Mack, arriving at court in May 2018. She pled guilty to sex trafficking and conspiracy charges
Vicente recruited Piesse, and eventually married her.
Piesse recorded a conversation with Raniere, in which she was expressing to him her concerns about her job as a 'proctor,' working 23-hour days for no money with little time to eat, leading her to nearly pass out during a NXIVM singing rehearsal.
'If you pass out, you pass out,' Raniere said. 'I’ve done that. But when there are higher values, when you’re connecting with people, when you are serving humanity, which is serving your inner self? And that sort of servitude is not slavery.'
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