HBO set a premiere date for “The Vow,” a nine-part documentary series directed by Emmy-winning and Academy award-nominated Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer. The docuseries will debut on August 23rd, with new episodes airing subsequent Sundays at the same time. The series explores the world of the controversial self-improvement group NXIVM, and will stream on HBO and HBO Max.
NXIVM was founded in 1998 by Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman. Within a few years, the company grew into an influential, international organization with thousands of members, including accomplished executives, Hollywood stars, wealthy heirs and the children of political dynasties.
The description reads, “With remarkable access to insiders and former members, THE VOW follows a range of people who joined NXIVM, a self-improvement group that disintegrated with criminal charges brought against its highest members. The show takes a deep, nuanced look at the experiences of many of the group’s participants, spotlighting their universal desire for personal growth and their internal conflicts over events as they unfold.”
Amidst claims by NXIVM participants of both profound transformation and devastating abuse, the series reveals the complicated truths behind the sensational headlines — a signature of Noujaim and Amer’s previous films. It explores the emotional toll of unfolding events on individuals who hoped to lead better lives and change the world with Raniere’s espoused humanitarian philosophy. The series illuminates how members were drawn to NXIVM’s ethical mission and promise. THE VOW takes viewers inside NXIVM, seen through the lens of former members who had dedicated their lives to the organization.
HBO added, “The project was personal for Noujaim, who, in 2010, attended Executive Success Programs, NXIVM’s flagship seminar, and explored making a film about the experience. Over the years, she kept in touch with the people she’d met. In 2017, whispers of a controversial secret sorority emerged, and several high-ranking members defected. Noujaim and Amer began filming, not knowing where the story would lead.”
Controversial reports had emerged as early as 2003, but in 2017, New York Times ran a story with disquieting revelations about a secret, female-only sect called DOS, derived from a Latin acronym meaning “Master of Obedient Women.” Initiates were required to ensure their dedication by handing over incriminating “collateral” to their “master.” Then, in a ceremony, some were branded as a symbol of their commitment.
By 2019 Raniere was convicted of crimes including racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, identity theft, and production and possession of child pornography. He awaits sentencing, which is expected this fall.
THE VOW takes a journey deep inside the world of people who devoted their life to NXIVM’s mission, clarifying the powerful draw of Raniere and the organization. With devastating candor, former NXIVM members grapple with their sense of responsibility as they face losing friendships, careers and the community they helped to build over a decade. The film offers a view into the lives of former members whose commitment to growth and a better world fueled their devotion to NXIVM and Raniere, following them as they question the intent of the teachings and the organization that had been at the center of their lives.
A story that begins with students devoted to personal improvement and an ethical worldview ends with them engaged in a federal investigation.
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