SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Hours before its opening night, Father Larry Gosselin of Old Mission Santa Barbara sent a message to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival urging Executive Director Roger Durling not to allow the documentary 'Hail Satan?' to screen in the community.
The note said:
With all my due respect and appreciation for you, and all that SBIFF brings to our community, I must express my grave concern and disappointment in learning of you bringing this film "Hail Satan" to our community. Without knowing this film personally, I feel I can safely and assuredly say, that the foundational aspects of this movie, and all that it represents, has its source in the powers of darkness. From my standpoint, as a religious leader, I have first-hand experience in dealing with those involved and influenced by satanic worship. I can assure you, that unless one has seen the effects that this involvement does bring onto those, who even innocently dabble with "powers of darkness," one has no idea what destructive outcomes can, and will, ensue with the ignorance of the what may be seen initially to be enticing and innocent, at first sight. the effects are not innocent but gravely harmful.
I strongly request of you, on behalf of our community, that you do not support, bring, nor allow this film into our community or view. with all concern, I believe that the effects of this movie, can and will, be greatly devastating to what you might know at this point. Again, I stand not merely on theological principles here, but I stand on my own personal experience, that has awakened me to what lies in darkness and its power.
I stand in deep concern, and as a advocate of our community, I ask you, with all personal appreciation for you, and for our community, "Do Not Allow" this movie "Hail Satan" into our community, that could harm us greatly.
Durling said it would open as planned at the Riviera Theatre.
"It's doing really well nationally," Durling said.
In a message to cinephiles, he wrote:
"Don't miss out on seeing one of the best documentaries of the year because of its title. 'Hail Satan?" is a richly entertaining film on the Satanic Temple's exploits. This light-footed movie challenges our preconceived notions of its subject with a smart, witty and at times hysterical dispatch from the front lines of the fight for social justice. you might think you may be watching a Christopher Guest mockumentary.
"I think this is a case of can't judge a book by its cover, and I think the whole point of the movie is about these activists trying to shed light between the fine line between church and state," Durling said Monday outside of his office.
On the first of four nights at the Riviera Theatre, moviegoers explained why they wanted to see it.
Nancy Barish said, "I saw the review and thought it looked very interesting and it is clearly outside of the box."
Many moviegoers were aware the Satanic Temple Group in the film challenged the Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma Statehouse.
"It sounds like what it stands for is separation of church and state and freedom of expression and the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment," said Bob Patterson.
Before the film, Beatrice Oshika said, "It clearly fulfills the role in showing there is more than one religious point of view in this country."
After the film Oshika said in an email message, "The Satanic Temple group by any other name would be a progressive social justice movement, they are for equality, diversity and a secular state with the constitutional separation of church and state. Father Larry would be offended by the movie's perspective on the role of Catholics (in restricting reproductive rights, in covering up pedophilia, etc.) but he could not claim that the movie actually misrepresented the Catholic church's official stance on these issues."
Oshika said only a dozen people saw first screening.
The controvery could spark ticket sales, allowing curious moveigoers to make up their own minds.
The film screens twice an evening through Thursday at the Riviera.
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