AUM: The Cult at the End of the World

Ben Braun & Chiaki Yanagimoto / / 2023

The incredible story of how a harmless yoga school turned into a Buddhist death cult that launched a terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway is a disturbingly universal journey into a closed world of radicalisation and extremism.

In 1984, eccentric guru Shoko Asahara founded a yoga school in Japan’s capital. Ten years later, the school has morphed into the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult which manufactures nerve gas and has its own secret weapons factories. The charismatic, half-blind Asahara proclaimed himself Buddha’s successor, and with him as a spiritual guide to his thousands of followers, the cult planned a 1995 terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway that left 14 dead and 6,000 injured. How did it come to this? Director duo Chiaki Yanagimoto and Ben Braun unravel the incredible story in great detail, and it’s a chillingly universal about radicalisation and extremism in closed environments – only with the difference that the leader is also a popular guest on TV shows and runs for local office! The latter fails disastrously, and Asahara’s wounded vanity was ironically crucial to the cult’s apocalyptic turn. Rich with clips from the group’s psychedelic propaganda videos and old interviews with Asahara himself.