CNN will finally TV-debut Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray on Thursday, December 1 at 9 PM and 11 PM ET with limited interruption. Enlighten Us made its world debut at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City in April, and also screened at Telluride Mountainfilm, and Tallgrass Film Festival.
The film explores the “motivational speaker’s rise, jail time break, and return to the $11 billion self-help industry following his conviction for negligent homicide in the 2009 deaths of three people at one of his events. Kirby Brown, 37, and James Shore, 40, died of heatstroke, and 18 people were hospitalized for various injuries, including burns and kidney failure, according to various press reports. And nine days after the incident, Liz Newman, 49, died of organ failure, according to the news reports. The deceased had paid $10K each to attend his week-long program, including a sweat lodge ceremony that involved sessions inside a hut, in which temperatures soared to 200 degrees, those news reports detailed. Ray was paroled after serving 85% of his two-year sentence. The documentary looks at the origins of the personal growth industry, what attracts followers, and why so many devotees are willing to take such risks.
The Jenny Carchman-directed docu “invites reflection and conversation about the broad questions of meaning and fulfillment, but also about how we seek answers to those questions,” CNN Worldwide EVP talent and content development Amy Entelis said in today’s announcement.
Ray spent years leading “personal-growth seminars” before an appearance in the 2006 film, The Secret brought sudden growth in his clientele. Book and television offers followed. The film also will stream via CNNgo, and encore on the network on Saturday and Sunday. CNN has developed a digital photo gallery of the names and faces of the most in-demand speakers in the “self-help” industry, and a look at the industry practices, as well a timeline of events at James Ray’s retreat in Sedona.
Enlighten Us is produced by Allyson Luchak, and executive produced by Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Amy Entelis, and Vinnie Malhotra.