Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses

Directed by David Stubbs

This impressive doco disperses the fog of shame and sensationalism to shed light on the tragedy that made international headlines in 2007 when a young Wainuiomata woman died during a mākutu lifting.


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  • ★★★★ review by Chris Murphy on Letterboxd

    I remember when the story of Janet Moses's death first broke here in New Zealand. The reaction was one of complete shock, I was shocked, my parents were shocked, my friends were shocked, and everyone was so quick to demonise Janet's family we never stopped to think "How did this happen?" How deep does a family's faith have to be to accidentally kill one of their own out of love? This fascinating docudrama endeavours to answer that question.

    What seemingly starts as fairly standard docudrama very quickly becomes a fascinating study of family, faith, and spiritualism. Particularly, how deeply our beliefs drive us in our actions.

    Something particularly harrowing in this documentary is witnessing the Moses family becoming increasingly isolated in their quest to free Janet of her "demons" as they become increasingly driven by their faith and complete belief that there was a mākutu in Janet as the leaders of the exorcism began to take control. It's an incredibly psychological look at the power of mob mentality. This coupled with interspersed visions of Wainuiomata's suburbia makes this situation seem like one that could have happened to any family, and it was exactly that.

    While the direction isn't always flawless you still are left with a deep insight into faith, family and hysteria. And while this documentary made me realise that what happened to Janet Moses and her family could have happened to anyone under the right circumstances one statement in this film continues to linger with me.

    "Whoever wasn't in that whare at that time will never understand."

  • ★★★★½ review by Chris Genro on Letterboxd

    A heartbreaking and fascinating look at a terrible tragedy that never sensationalizes and goes to get lengths to present both sides of the argument. A very sad film where you feel terrible for everyone involved.

    It's easy to judge others when we are not in the same situation but in this case I felt it was a mix of deeply held religious beliefs, hysteria and group mentality caused the death of this young woman. To make matters worse it almost cost the life of her daughter as well.

    I've always found films that tackle the clash between cultures or old world spiritual beliefs vs modern science to be extremely interesting and this is no exception. 4.5/5 stars.

  • ★★★★ review by Hershal on Letterboxd

    This is a tough movie to watch. And it's even tougher if you have any experience dealing with someone in the throes of a full-on psychotic breakdown. I'm not a spirtiual person, I don't believe in possession or demons. But plenty of people do. And this docudrama consisting of recreations of the actual events combined with real life accounts from some of the people who dealt with the aftermath paints a sobering but fair portrait of a group of people who wanted to help but who fell victim to a group madness that led them to do anything but. I felt crushed when it was all over. That's powerful filmmaking.

  • ★★★★½ review by beko doko on Letterboxd

    the fact that this happened so recently makes me so glad i wasn't around 100 years ago. my god. docudrama is powerful, isn't it? i definitely wanted to bawl my eyes out this early in the morning.

  • ★★★½ review by Michael Gannaway / Hucksta G on Letterboxd

    Sad, disturbing and well made documentary which poses some interesting and heavy ethical questions.

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