One ironic documentary

There might be more to one Academy Award-nominated documentary than meets the eye.

MSNBC/March 11, 2002
By Jeanette Walls

"Artists and Orphans: A True Drama" is about artists and actors who help orphans in the former Soviet state of Georgia. But what the documentary fails to mention, says a source familiar with the film, is that all the artists and actors are part of the Fourth Way School, run by Sharon Gans, who helped make the film. It's directed by Lianne Klapper McNally, a member of the school.

And some folks have harsh things to say about Fourth Way. "I have received many serious complaints about this group," says cult expert Rick Ross. "Former members and families claim that the extreme control Sharon Gans has exercised over their lives has caused them enormous personal pain and has resulted in numerous divorces and estrangements. I have also been told that historically, the group has excluded black members and will accept gays only if they are interested in changing their sexual preference."

Ross points out that Gans ran another school in San Francisco, the Theatre of All Possibilities, which was abruptly closed in the late 1970s after newspaper reports detailed allegations of brainwashing and violence against its members.

Gans couldn't be reached for comment.

Says Ross: "It's ironic that this documentary, which is all about rescuing children, is associated with a group that has been accused of being destructive to families."

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