A

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The 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway shook Japanese society, resulting in bitter recriminations and national soul-searching comparable to Watergate in America. The group responsible -- Aum Shinrikyo -- was little known to the average Japanese. Believing in a mixture of varying strands of Buddhism along with elements of New Age spiritualism and with rumors of drug-use and bizarre rituals, the group and its members were widely vilified by Japan's voracious media. Six months after the gas attack when Aum's original leaders -- guru Shoko Asahara along with Ikuo Hayashi, Fumihiro Joyu, and others -- were carted off to jail, documentary filmmaker Tatsuya Mori approached Aum to shoot an objective fly-on-the-wall-style documentary about this much discussed and maligned sect. Focusing on the Aum's most visible member, not jailed Hiroshi Araki, Mori shows how frighteningly ordinary these members are. This film was screened at the 1999 Yamagata Documentary Film Festival. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

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