2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: HAIL SATAN?

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Naiti Gámez

Penny Lane explores the separation of church and state through the unlikely rise of the Satanic Temple.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

What kind of religious expression should be permitted in a secular nation? Holy hell, something is brewing! Just a few years old, the Satanic Temple has risen from the depths to become one of the most controversial religious movements in American history. HAIL SATAN? bears witness as the temple evolves from a small-scale media stunt to an internationally recognized religion with hundreds of thousands of adherents. Naked bodies writhe with snakes on altars as protesters storm the gates of state capitols across the country. Through their dogged campaign to place a nine-foot, bronze Satanic monument smack dab next to the statue of the Ten Commandments on the Arkansas State Capitol lawn, the leaders of the temple force us to consider the true meaning of the separation of church and state.

Brandishing their sharply honed cinematic swords, director Penny Lane and producer Gabriel Sedgwick strike a cunning balance between cheeky, brazen entertainment and defiantly serious storytelling in this wickedly topical documentary that bares its horns to speak truth to power.

Some Background:

  • Penny Lane
    Past Sundance docs:

    Lane received support for this project from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, and participated in the Creative Producing Documentary Lab and Summit. This is her fourth feature, following last year’s Rotterdam debuting THE PAIN OF OTHERS. She is a professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Colgate University.


  • Gabriel Sedgwick
    Past Sundance docs:


    Sedgwick is the head of production for Brooklyn-based production company Hard Working Movies, for which he line produced Sundance alum KIKI (2016). He also produced THE PAIN OF OTHERS as well as two of Lane’s recent short docs.

Associate Producer/Assistant Editor:

  • Nickolas Hasse

    While this marks Hasse’s first producing credit, he has previously worked as an editor on Lane’s work.

Executive Producer:

  • Lori Cheatle
    Past Sundance docs:


    Cheatle is the founder of Hard Working Movies, where she has produced docs since 2004.


Assistant Editors:

Why You Should Watch:
Keeping in line with Lane’s body of work, her latest film is subversive, provocative, and refreshingly fun. Viewers will find their casual assumptions about the Satanic Temple to be challenged, and may even seek out a local chapter of the controversial group when the film ends. Magnolia Pictures has already acquired the film for a projected March 29 release.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist Profile

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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