Alex Gibney knows a thing or two about about powerful institutions.
The Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker has worked on movies about corrupt corporations (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”), and he’s worked on movies about the U.S. military (“No End in Sight”). He’s worked on movies about the Catholic Church (“Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God”), and he’s worked on movies about the Church of Scientology (“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”).
In his latest movie, the director takes a look at yet another enormous institution in Apple. “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” which comes out Friday, explores the complicated world that the Apple co-founder inhabited and created -- sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. (Gizmodo, the Gawker tech blog that features prominently in the film, has referred to the movie as “The Steve Jobs Documentary Apple Doesn't Want You to See.”)
The are inescapable similarities between the subjects of “The Man in the Machine” and “Going Clear,” Gibney’s film about Scientology from earlier this year. Both films take hard looks at massive and, at times, controversial institutions forever associated with their domineering and brilliant founders -- Jobs in Apple’s case, L. Ron Hubbard in Scientology’s. (Of course, the depiction of Hubbard and his church is much more damning.)
When HuffPost asked Gibney this week about the lessons he has taken away from covering large institutions and the powerful people who head them, he took a moment, then said: “The stuff about power and power corrupting is definitely a lesson. You see it over and over and over again, and it happens both from inside and out.”
“At Enron and also at Scientology and at Apple, all in different ways, there is a kind of corruption that happens with power and, so, I think thats why it’s important to make films like this,” he added. “These powerful institutions persuade people that they are all good and that they should be left alone."
Rumors have circulated in recent months that Apple employees walked out in protest of a screening of "The Man in the Machine" earlier this year at South by Southwest. HuffPost asked Gibney if it matters to him when he hears the people most closely affected by his films don't take heed to their message.
"It matters," he said. “But I think one of the things I’ve learned -- and Lawrence Wright talked about it a lot with his book [Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief] -- is this idea of the Prison of Belief. Some people get imprisoned by the need to believe in something so fervently that they’re not willing to accept that there could be flaws."
That's not simply the fault of human instincts, though. In Gibney's opinion, the people up top bare a large brunt of the responsibility as well.
"If you look to some extent at the way that Apple has related to this film and also the way Scientology reacted to 'Going Clear,'" he said, "it’s all about trying assure the faithful that ‘We’ve got your back. Apple is all good. Don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain.'"
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