Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults Trailer Examines Tragic Suicide

The four-part docuseries hails from Clay Tweel, the director of ‘Gleason’ and ‘Finders Keepers.’


I’ve always been fascinated with cults. Who starts them, who joins them, who leaves them, and why. Though I ultimately didn’t spark to HBO’s NXIVM series The Vow, I’m looking forward to HBO Max’s upcoming docuseries Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults based on the trailer that was released this week.

The four-part series from director Clay Tweel uses never-before-seen footage to offer a thorough examination of the infamous UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and loved ones. The cult began with the disappearance of 20 people from a small town in Oregon and ended in 1997 with the largest suicide on U.S. soil — one that changed the face of modern new age religion forever.

While Tweel is best known for directing Gleason, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award, I know him first and foremost as the director of Finders Keepers, a documentary about an an amputee trying to recover his missing leg from a man who found it in a grill that he bought at an auction. The incident was bizarre to say the least, and it doesn’t get more bizarre than Heaven’s Gate, which makes me think he’s the perfect person for this particular project.


Image via HBO Max

I can only imagine the number of media requests that the ex-members of Heaven’s Gate and the families of its late members have received over the years, but here’s hoping they shared something new with Tweel, who has certainly proven himself to be a compassionate filmmaker as well as a sensitive storyteller. I doubt he’s looking to exploit this tragedy, but rather, aims to illuminate this mysterious confounding group by focusing on how they lived, not just how they died.

Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults was produced by CNN and Campfire, whose CEO Ross Dinerstein executive produced alongside Tweel and Shannon Riggs, while Chris Bannon, Eric Spiegelman, Peter Clowney and Erik Diehn executive produced on behalf of the digital media company Stitcher, which also released a podcast about the cult.

Tweel previously worked with Dinerstein on Netflix’s six-episode true crime docuseries The Innocent Man, based on Josh Grisham’s only non-fiction book. The Heaven’s Gate series will debut on HBO Max on Thursday, Dec. 3. The streamer just released the true crime documentary The Mystery of D.B. Cooper, and you can click here to watch the trailer, and click here to read Matt Goldberg‘s enthusiastic review.





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About The Author

Jeff Sneider
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Jeff Sneider is the Senior Film Reporter at Collider, where he breaks film and television news and curates the Up-and-Comer of the Month column in addition to hosting The Sneider Cut podcast and the awards-themed series For Your Consideration with Scott Mantz and Perri Nemiroff. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Jeff started his career at Ain’t It Cool News before moving to Los Angeles to write for Variety and later, TheWrap and Mashable. Jeff also served as Editor in Chief of The Tracking Board and has contributed to MTV Movies Blog, Hollywood Life magazine, Washington Square News and the Colorado Springs Independent. His Oscar picks have appeared on the LA Times’ Envelope site, and he agrees with screenwriter William Goldman who famously said of Hollywood, “nobody knows anything.” Jeff hails from Needham, Massachusetts and has never eaten a salad. He can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Cameo and Blogspot by searching his nom de plume @TheInSneider.

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