In truth evoking that explorative inquisitive ease of one Louis Theroux, Andrew Gold casts his gaze on the controversial Argentinian pastor Padre Manuel Acuña. Through dramatic exorcisms, the pastor has built a large and growing following in Argentina. ‘Cured’ individuals and families vociferous in their thanks for the pastor.
In this engrossing documentary British born Andrew Gold seeks to go beyond the dramatic and uncover the reality of pastor Padre’s exorcism of young minds. The documentary (fuelled by Andrew Gold’s frustration with the lack of any “challenge” of the pastor’s practices) takes us into uncomfortable and at times worrying areas. Ultimately the documentary forces us to question whether these “young minds” are possessed or deeply damaged.
Before we get onto your brilliant documentary can you talk to us about your journey into documentary film?
I used to work as an online reporter for The Sun, but I always wanted to try being a presenter and making films about strange worlds. I enjoy being a stranger in a foreign land. First, I made some short videos with a production company in Buenos Aires about things like infidelity and UFOs. Then, I got my friend David Hayes – a wonderful director – to come out and film a longer piece about the exorcist.
I’m fascinated both by controversial figures and by people’s reactions to them.
Can you name a film/documentary, moment or person who really solidified your wish to get into documentary film-how did it make you feel emotionally?
Like most Brits, I was a big fan of Louis Theroux growing up. I watched what he did and noticed the small things that he did to encourage people to reveal more to him than they intended.
The documentary-explain how you found this?
I found it frustrating that nobody on Argentine TV or radio seemed to be challenging him. I wanted to see what effect he was having on the impoverished community around him.
These possessed youngsters might be classed as falling into the personality disorder spectrum -how vulnerable did you find them?
It’s tough for me to say, since I’m not a doctor. But it seemed like yes, they would be better treated by a doctor. In a wealthier area – with better education – they would be treated by medical professionals. I worry about Candela in particular.
Controversial figures like the Padre in the documentary are so interesting?
I’m fascinated both by controversial figures and by people’s reactions to them. I find we’re living in an increasingly binary world, where everyone wants to pick a side. I often linger on one of the sides, but I want to see what makes the extreme people tick and try to understand them.
This is I suppose a story about one man, his following and mental health in the impoverished suburbs.
Was there anything likeable about Padre?
By the end, I was very scared and trapped in a room with him. I didn’t find him likeable – but he has huge crowds of followers who do seem to find him likeable.
We didn’t focus too much on religion as such – partly because, while most people presume he’s Catholic, the Padre claims to be Lutheran. This is I suppose a story about one man, his following and mental health in the impoverished suburbs.
There seemed a battle also with the families-there seemed a sense of desperation?
These are desperate people. Where they live, mental health is a taboo topic of discussion. They have never known other people to suffer with the same things they were going though. So it makes sense that they turn to the paranormal.
Was your aim to expose Padre or was it initially to explore?
I wanted to explore but I knew that nothing paranormal would happen. I was however open to the idea of him as a source of good for the community.
There was a real sense that you felt uncomfortable with Padre being pictured on holiday with Paola. Post the documentary have you found out anymore?
According to Facebook, they’ve been on a few holidays together. It’s very expensive and unusual for somebody from the area they’re from to be able to afford to go to such distant destinations.