Penny Lane on “Hail Satan?, Religion in Politics, and Making Her First ‘Normal’ Documentary

Penny Lane Hail Satan Penny Lane, photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Welcome back to More of a Comment, Really…, a weekly interview podcast hosted by Clint Worthington! Every episode will feature interviews with actors, filmmakers, producers, and more, giving you the skinny on the latest films and TV.

Penny Lane loves to make films to test her audiences’ empathy for controversial outsiders: Nuts!‘ goat-gland huckster John Romulus Brinkley, the Morgellons-afflicted women of The Pain of Others, and so on. Her latest, Hail Satan?, takes a deep, witty look at another group of outsiders: The Satanic Temple, a religious order-cum-anarchic political movement that views Satan as the ultimate agent provocateur.

Their biggest concern? Pointing out the hypocrisy of the way America practices the separation of church and state, which all too often favors Christian fundamentalism. For every statue of the Ten Commandments put up outside a state courthouse, they petition to put up a statue of the dark demon Baphomet; they fight for the right to offer up Satanic prayer in schools right next to Christian prayer. The Temple is at once a deeply satirical group poking at the evils of fundamentalist Christianity and a religion who values the conception of Satan as someone rebelling against restrictive orthodoxies.

Lane’s approach to telling their story is rich, funny, and deeply engaging; supplementing the strictly archival-footage-based collage style she typically employs, Lane interviews figures from all sides of the Temple’s surprisingly splintered factions to get a more intimate, contemporary picture of the temple. It’s one of the best docs of the year, but that’s typical for a year that features a Penny Lane film.

This week on the pod, Lane (our first returning guest!) steps into The Spool Studios to talk about Hail Satan?, the challenges of shaking up her normal style, and why the film’s title ends in a question mark.

(This interview was recorded in mid-April during the Doc10 Film Festival in Chicago, Illinois; Hail Satan? is currently playing in select theaters, including the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Get tickets here.)

(More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcastfor sponsoring this episode!)


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