The filmmaker returns to the Wexner Center with latest work
“We're not what you think we are.”
So says a member of the Satanic Temple in filmmaker Penny Lane's newest documentary, “Hail Satan?” There is no shortage of opinions on the modern-day Satanists who wear horns, perform blasphemy rituals and advocate for goat-headed Baphomet statues on government property.
“Some people think that Satanists are evil and others think they're just kidding,” said Lane, a former Wexner Center Artist Residency Award recipient. She will return to the Wex to present “Hail Satan?” and the film “The Pain of Others” on Friday, May 10, and Saturday, May 11, as part of Flyover Fest.
“Both of those responses are quite common, and I'm sure there are some people who aren't sure,” Lane continued.
Not to be confused with LaVeyan Satanism, the Satanic Temple is a nontheistic religious and political organization. Members advocate for social equity and the separation of church and state through satirical protest. On April 25, it was officially granted designation as a tax-exempt church by the IRS.
“You have to actually be willing to pay attention to what they say and what they do and how they actually conduct themselves, and not base your ideas about who they are on preconceptions,” Lane said. “People get their ideas about what Satanism is from afternoon talk shows like ‘Geraldo,' or from Hollywood movies like ‘Rosemary's Baby.'”
Through both footage from the Satanic Temple and original filming, “Hail Satan?” covers the group's 2013 origins and its growth to more than 15 chapters and more than 100,000 members worldwide. Viewers will get a behind-the-scenes look at campaigns to erect Baphomet statues at the Oklahoma and Arkansas state capitols, as well as other group actions. Historical context, including details on the rise of contemporary Satanism in the 1960s and the “Satanic Panic” of the '80s and '90s, is also provided.
“The biggest revelation for me was the fact that, underneath all these blatantly silly and fun trappings, were a bunch of people that have real, sincere religious identification,” Lane said. “It was really meeting people who were speaking so beautifully and eloquently to me about what Satanism actually means to them, and how much it's changed their lives.”
Lane captures the stories of people who previously felt like outcasts, or who were looking for something more meaningful. “This makes life fun,” states one Satanist in the film.
“It shows that, as human beings, we seem to be religious,” said Lane, who purchased a $25 Satanic Temple membership card as an ally to the movement. “If you look at polling data, there's more and more people who are atheist or agnostic, and they're religiously unaffiliated. What the success of the Satanic Temple shows is that people are still looking for all the good parts of religion.”
Lane's quirky and unique filmography includes works such as “The Pain of Others,” a YouTube compilation film about people who claim to suffer from a bizarre illness, and “Nuts,” which profiles a fraudulent doctor who performed goat-testicle transplants to treat impotence.
“I am trying to prove that you can make really fun movies that are smart,” Lane said. “As far as how I choose my subjects, I'm very interested in stories that let me examine people's beliefs. … Like why people believe what they believe and what would it take them to change their mind.”
Viewers of “Hail Satan?” may be surprised by the shift in their thinking after viewing the documentary.
“I found that people who walk into the film and actually watch it walk out feeling really changed in a very good way,” Lane said. “It's worth considering watching this film, even if you suspect you might be offended by it.”