Me and the Cult Leader


  • Atsushi Sakahara
  • Japan
  • 2020
  • 114 min
  • Dutch Premiere
  • Best of Fests

On March 20, 1995, a sarin nerve gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult (now Aleph) left 13 dead and more than 6,000 injured on the Tokyo subway. Atsushi Sakahara survived the attack, but still suffers from the after-effects.

In an attempt to understand the events, Sakahara has already produced a book about the cult and is currently releasing the podcast Before After Aum. In his first documentary, he now engages in an extremely courageous conversation with executive cult member Hiroshi Araki (who was not involved in the attack himself). It turns out they studied at the same university and come from the same region, where they travel together and have an emotional meeting with Sakahara’s parents.

In a road movie on foot and by train, Sakahara’s jokes and personal stories gradually produce cracks in the defensive attitude of the tense-looking Araki. We see them skimming stones together and listening to music, with the camera taking care to focus on both of them equally. Sakahara is sometimes stern, but listens patiently and, in long, calm conversations, tries to understand why Araki joined the cult—and why he has stayed.


  • 114 min
  • color
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: Japanese
  • Subtitles in: English
Atsushi Sakahara
Atsushi Sakahara / Good People Inc, Etsuko Matsuo
Tatsuya Yamada, Masato Takashima
Junko Watanabe
Ryoma Ochiai

IDFA history

Dutch Premiere
Best of Fests

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IDFA history

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