10:38am PT by Rick Porter
HBO Plans Docuseries on Alleged Sex Cult NXIVM
HBO is producing a documentary series on NXIVM, the purported self-help organization that is facing charges of sex trafficking and racketeering.
One of its prominent members, former Smallville actress Allison Mack, pleaded guilty on April 8 to charges of sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit forced labor. The group's leader, Keith Raniere, is scheduled to go to trial on the charges.
Nancy Salzman, a co-founder of the organization, has also pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer (Control Room, The Square, The Great Hack) are behind the HBO Documentary Films series. It will follow a range of people who joined NXIVM (pronounced "NEX-ee-um") and, per HBO, "take a deep, nuanced look at experiences of its members, spotlighting their universal desire for personal growth."
It will also examine the "emotional toll" of the legal case and alleged practices of NXIVM — including women who were allegedly branded with Raniere's initials and forced to have sex with him — on people involved with the group.
Annapurna Television also optioned rights to a 2017 New York Times exposé on NXIVM to develop as a scripted series.
Noujaim has a personal connection to the organization, having taken an introductory "Executive Success Program" workshop from the group in 2010. That experience, HBO says, gives her "an illuminating perspective to the media spectacle surrounding this polarized community as it faces federal investigation."
HBO is no stranger to controversial subject matter in its documentaries. The premium cable outlet recently aired Leaving Neverland, documenting child sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson by two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck. The two-part film drew the third-largest audience for an HBO documentary in the last decade; one of the two ahead of it was Alex Gibney's Scientology doc Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
HBO hasn't set an airdate for the series.