Me and Cult Leader

(Original title: AGANAI 地下鉄サリン事件と私)


More than two decades after the Tokyo subway sarin attack by the doomsday cult Aum, director-cum-victim Sakahara Atsushi embarks on an intimate and profound journey with Araki Hiroshi, the cult’s PR director, to unveil the truth behind the tragedy that leaves an everlasting wound in his life. From a visit to the current day cult headquarters to their hometown, Sakahara brings out a man whose psyche is broken by a vain belief in redemption, and exposes how this cult manipulates its members through mind control.

Genre: Documentary
Languages: Japanese
Length: 114 min
Country: Japan
Production Year: 2020
Director/ Producer: SAKAHARA Atsushi


Sold to: EBS (Korea)




Born in Kyoto in 1966. He studied in Kyoto University, started his career in an advertising agency and then earned an MBA at the University of California. He produced a short film, Bean Cake, which won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2001. He has published several books, including his latest bestseller, The Size Doesn’t Matter. In 2012 he directed his first short film, Don’t Call Me FatherMe and the Cult Leader – A Modern Report on the Banality of Evil is his debut feature film.


Aum Shinrikyo, a religious cult, attacked the Tokyo subway system with sarin gas on 20th March, 1995. Thirteen people died, and more than 6,000 people were injured. I was a victim in that tragedy.

I had made a promise to my high school friend that I will become an acclaimed filmmaker. Sadly, he committed suicide, and I regretted that I couldn’t stop him. For the past 30 years, I have been endeavoring to pursue my dream, and keep my promise. My determination is even stronger after the sarin attack.

I decided to get married after the incident. A couple of days before our wedding, my wife revealed to me that she had once joined Aum Shinrikyo, though she was never serious about it. I married her anyway, but we separated after one year and a half.

Finally, I decided to face Aum Shinrikyo for my own resolution. I convinced the cult’s non-criminal executive to appear in my film. I started shooting in 2015 and made the first cut, but didn’t like it. I dismissed the editor, shot additional footage and re-edited it by myself.




2018    Shortlisted Work-in Progress (WIP) projects at Hong Kong-Asia Financing Forum
2020    Sheffield Doc Fest  (UK) – World Premiere
2020    RIDM, Montreal International Documentary Festival (Canada)
2020    Docilsboa – International Film Festival (Portugal)
2020    IDFA,  International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (Netherlands)
2020    San Diego Asian Film Festival (USA)
2020    Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival (Czech Republic)
2020    Shortlisted for IDA Documentary Award
2021    The 45th Hong Kong International Film Festival – Asia Premiere and Documentary Competition shortlisted
2021    CPH: DOX Documentary (Denmark)
2021    It’s All True International Film Festival (Brazil)
2021    Nippon Connection – Japanese Film Festival (Germany)