Hulu’s Sarah Lawrence Cult Doc Unveils ‘Stolen Youth’ Trailer

In April, Larry Ray, 62, was sentenced of sex trafficking, extortion, conspiracy and other charges – crimes tied to his decade-long stint controlling and manipulating a small group of young people. The story – which first broke in a explosive New York Magazine article which sparked an investigation into Ray’s activities in April 2019 – is the subject of an upcoming three-part Hulu docuseries, Stolen Youth: In the Cult of Sarah Lawrence, from Oscar-nominated director Zachary Heinzerling, which premieres Feb. 9. With unprecedented access to Sarah Lawrence College students recruited by Rayand family members whose lives have been irrevocably changed, the documentary traces how exactly a roommate’s overbearing father could go from sleeping on the dorm couch and lecturing about mind discipline to trapping and abusing several bright young adults, take their lives off the track.

“Daniel Levin, who was one of Larry Ray’s survivors and one of the main sources for the article, approached me to do a documentary,” Heinzerling said in an interview with Vulture. “He said, ‘I want to do something that survivors can look into and see themselves in. the survivors.

One of Ray’s tactics was to manipulate the truth and alter students’ memories, isolating them from their families and making them believe they owed him astronomical sums of money or were poisoned in a elaborate conspiracy too convoluted to delve into here. Throughout filming, Heinzerling saw the process of a survivor deciphering “which memories belonged to Larry and which were his and really reconstructing his identity.” “You don’t often see someone heal from this kind of abuse. [onscreen]”Heinzerling said. “It showed a level of strength and courage in someone to let go of whatever shame and embarrassment they might have felt as a result of this and start a healing process.”

By sifting through audio tapes and images taken inside the sect alongside first-hand accounts, one of Heinzerling’s goals was to show how anyone could fall in love with an authoritarian leader who claimed to have a monopoly on the truth. “I went to a small liberal arts college,” the principal began. “I had a similar group of artistically-minded friends. And so I felt like, It could be me.

“You have a quote-unquote group of progressive-minded ‘liberal’ students who find themselves in an environment where they are told to hang out,” he said. “And comes this kind of heteronormative, masculine, conservative person who makes very clear black and white decisions about the lives of these students and eases all these anxieties. I think it’s interesting to see that also in the context of a small liberal arts college, where you don’t really associate a Trump-like personality with being attractive, but yet he was to these young students really brilliant.

Heinzerling wants the doc to “show the real process that Larry has put in place over many years” and “allow people to see themselves in that experience.” “In this case, it’s a psychological prison,” he explained. “When you see videos of these students admitting to these bizarre crimes, it’s hard to know what to make of it. I think the goal is to understand how it happened and to empathize with the survivors and understand their story in a deeper way and hopefully learn something about yourself and society.

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