Beyond Our Ken Melissa Mclean and Luke Walker

Beyond Our Ken Melissa Mclean and Luke Walker
This cult exposé doc about the mysterious Kenja movement starts out so impartial that it’s almost possible to get seduced by the weird self-realisation rhetoric of the cult’s leader (Ken Dyer) and his partner Jan Hamilton. Interviews with Kenja devotees make them seem like stable, intelligent people. The whole thing doesn’t start out seeming too cult-like at all.

That all changes when the interviewees start talking about how they were encouraged to cut ties with non-member friends and family members, and recount stories about members with mental health issues being cruelly cast out of the group for being unable to cope without the help of therapists or prescription drugs (both of which Kenja is vehemently against). As it turns out, Kenja is a bit like Scientology but creepier. At least L. Ron Hubbard was never charged with sexually assaulting a bunch of 12-year-old girls.

The various sexual misconduct charges against Ken Dyers are really just the icing on the cake. By this point in the doc, Kenja seems like a bona fide cult with all the usual trappings, and it’s hardly surprising that the leader’s a bit shady (to say the least). During the film’s stunning climax, a visibly agitated Dyer screams at the camera for five minutes about how he shouldn’t have to defend himself against a pack of lies, a scene the filmmakers later said lasted over 20 minutes. It’s a terrifying counterpoint to the calm, affable man we see throughout the rest of the film.

If anything, the film spends too much time interviewing Kenja followers and not enough time delving into the background and history of the group’s charismatic and bizarre leader. We never really learn how it all began, which is most likely more interesting than the predictable descriptions of cult life.

At the premiere screening at Hot Docs, Kenja members who’d flown here all the way from Australia passed out flyers, calling the filmmaker a fraud. Now that’s dedication! (Independent)