HBO has released the trailer for The Vow, a nine-part documentary series directed by Emmy winning and Academy award nominated Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer. The series debuted last night and new episodes will air on subsequent Sundays. The series explores the world of the controversial self-improvement group NXIVM, which Smallville actress Allison Mack was caught up in. Last year, Mack plead guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges for her involvement in the NXIVM sex cult.

The Vow contains remarkable access to insiders and former members. It follows a range of people who joined NXIVM, a self-improvement group that disintegrated with criminal charges brought against its highest members. The 9-part docuseries takes a deep, nuanced look at the experiences of many of the group's participants, spotlighting their universal desire for personal growth and their internal conflicts over events as they unfold.

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NXIVM was founded in 1998 by Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman. Within a few years, the company grew into an influential, international organization with thousands of members, including accomplished executives, Hollywood stars, wealthy heirs and the children of political dynasties. Many believe that their methods were able to rewire one's brain and that it brought a lot of positivity out into the world. However, that ended up changing over the course of many years.

Amidst claims by NXIVM participants of both profound transformation and devastating abuse, The Vow reveals the complicated truths behind the sensational headlines - a signature of Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer's previous work. It explores the emotional toll of unfolding events on individuals who hoped to lead better lives and change the world with Raniere's espoused humanitarian philosophy. The series illuminates how members were drawn to NXIVM's ethical mission and promise.

The project was personal for Jehane Noujaim, who, in 2010, attended Executive Success Programs, NXIVM's flagship seminar, and explored making a documentary about the experience. Over the years, she kept in touch with the people she'd met. In 2017, whispers of a controversial secret sorority emerged, and several high-ranking members defected. Noujaim and Karim Amer began filming, not knowing where the story would lead. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Controversial reports had emerged as early as 2003, but in 2017, the New York Times ran a story with disquieting revelations about a secret, female-only sect called DOS, derived from a Latin acronym meaning "Master of Obedient Women." Initiates were required to ensure their dedication by handing over incriminating "collateral" to their "master." Then, in a ceremony, some were branded as a symbol of their commitment. By 2019 Keith Raniere was convicted of crimes including racketeering, sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, identity theft, and production, along with possession of child pornography. He awaits sentencing, which is expected to take place this fall.

The Vow takes a journey deep inside the world of people who devoted their life to NXIVM's mission, clarifying the powerful draw of Keith Raniere and the organization. With devastating candor, former NXIVM members grapple with their sense of responsibility as they face losing friendships, careers and the community they helped to build over a decade. You can check out the explosive trailer for the docuseries above, thanks to the HBO YouTube trailer.

Kevin Burwick at TVweb
Kevin Burwick