Filmmaker’s Documentary Examines Cult Behavior

Posted on April 6, 2011

Filmmaker Vangie Griego explains why her documentary God Willing was destined for Public Television. The film airs this April, check local listings.


Making God Willing was my educational journey to understand why my nephew, Daniel Garcia and young people like him, make the radical choice to abandon their former lives and families to join the Jim Roberts’ Group — a highly secretive and nomadic group who believe they are the only ones on the true path to salvation.

As a family member, I also wanted to give a voice to the parents’ loss and pain as well as insight into their choices as they search for their missing children. My film provides no clear-cut answers but does, I hope, give us space and cause to think about deeper issues that emerge when freedom of religion, faith, family, and identity collide. 

The Jim Roberts group, in existence since 1971, is one of over 5000 cults in America. When I began to conceive my film, ten years ago, I knew that Public Television was the only co-production partner that would allow me the freedom to make a film that would remain true to my creative vision and reach the widest audience possible. I believed that producing the film for Public Television, versus a commercial entity, would ensure that the subjects of my film, particularly the cult members, were portrayed with a sense of humanity and compassion and that their deep conviction and genuine desire to “serve the lord in the right way,” would be respected and explored. This was crucial to me because after spending many years on the film, what became clear to me is that the kids who joined were not bizarre freakazoids who fit some kind of particular profile of a cult member, rather there was no clear common denominator. Anyone can become ensnared. In addition to the creative freedom, PBS/ITVS offered opportunities such as Project 360, which is a stand-alone piece that can provide additional insight into the subject or the making of the film.


Ultimately, a film such as God Willing that chooses not to present the issues as black and white will do best on Public Television because its audiences are accustomed to exploring complex issues, discussion, and engagement through all sorts of media platforms.  


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