NXIVM: Every documentary, book, and podcast that explores Keith Raniere’s cult

Clémence Michallon
·4-min read
Keith Raniere (HBO)
Keith Raniere (HBO)

It has been three years since NXIVM, a purported self-help group operating out of upstate New York, made headlines as a cult-like organisation whose activities included branding women and recruiting them into a secretive organisation where self-proclaimed “masters” ruled on “slaves”.

Since then, NXIVM’s founder Keith Raniere (known to followers as Vanguard) has been convicted on charges including racketeering, sex trafficking, extortion, indentity theft, and production and possession of child pornography. As he awaits sentencing at a Brooklyn prison, the story of NXIVM keeps resonating, with former members sharing their accounts of what they witnessed during their time within the organisation.

From documentaries to books, podcasts, and even a Lifetime movie, there are a variety of ways to learn more about NXIVM and its two decades of existence. Rounded-up below are all the essentials for a deep-dive into the case.

The Vow

This sweeping, nine-episode documentary series aired on HBO from 13 August to 18 October. Powered by ample footage from NXIVM’s heyday (members were encouraged to film and record most encounters, with the idea that it might be useful to future generations), the show answers some of the most pressing questions about the organisation: how did it attract members? Why did people stay? Why did some of them decide to leave, and at what cost?

Some of the key players in the NXIVM saga, including Smallville actor Allison Mack (who has pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in the case), are featured in archive videos. Others, such as former Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg, share their experiences directly in front of the cameras. As IndieWire noted in a review, the series “takes a few episodes” to find its rhythm – but once it does, it’s hard to look away.

Keith Raniere (centre) in a court sketch dated 18 June 2019, made during closing arguments in Brooklyn federal courtElizabeth Williams via AP
Keith Raniere (centre) in a court sketch dated 18 June 2019, made during closing arguments in Brooklyn federal courtElizabeth Williams via AP

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult

In this miniseries coming to Starz on 18 October, India Oxenberg (Catherine Oxenberg’s daughter) details her seven years at NXIVM, which she describes in a trailer as “a cult” that kept her “in the clutches of a monster”.

“I felt like it was my chance to take the story back into my own hands and say, ‘Hey, there’s a person here! Not just branded, sex slave, cult girl — a human being,'” she told Variety of her decision to participate in the programme.

Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult will air in four parts each week until 8 November.

Escaping the NXIVM Cult: A Mother's Fight to Save Her Daughter

Released in September 2019, this self-described ripped-from-the-headlines dramatisation of India Oxenberg’s story was executive-produced by her mother Catherine, who makes a cameo in addition to being portrayed by Canadian actor Andrea Roth.

Jasper Polish stars as India, Sara Fletcher plays Allison Mack, and Peter Facinelli was cast as Keith Raniere. The film is, in fact, partly based on another repository of NXIVM knowledge…

Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult – Catherine Oxenberg

This book, published in 2018, is an account of Catherine Oxenberg’s efforts to pull her daughter out of NXIVM. The Lifetime film is in part an adaptation of the memoir, though Oxenberg emphasised to Variety that “this is not [India’s] story”.

“In my book I’m very careful not to trespass on her story at all, and so probably the hardest part for me was reading the parts of the script that tell her side of the story — because I’m very, very sensitive to my daughter having ownership over her perspective,” she added. “But in order to tell this story in a visual medium, she had to be portrayed — and in moments that no mother wants to see her child, whether it’s the branding ceremony or scenes with Keith. But she did not participate in the telling of this story, and she will be telling the most accurate story from her perspective when the time is right.”

‘Smallville’ actor Allison Mack departs the United States Eastern District Court in Brooklyn on 4 May 2018Jemal Countess/Getty Images
‘Smallville’ actor Allison Mack departs the United States Eastern District Court in Brooklyn on 4 May 2018Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life – Sarah Edmondson

Sarah Edmondson is heavily featured in The Vow as a former NXIVM member who left the organisation and worked to get other members to leave it. For a while, though, Edmondson was devoted to the group, climbing the ranks of its inner hierarchy, and overseeing the opening of a NXIVM chapter in Vancouver, Canada. She was one of several sources who spoke to The New York Times for an October 2017 story that propelled knowledge of the group into the mainstream.

Her memoir, released in September 2019, looks back on her time with the group, from her recruitment to her role in exposing its activities.

The Program: Inside the Mind of Keith Raniere and the Rise and Fall of NXIVM – Toni Natalie and Chet Hardin

Also released in September 2019, The Program tells the story of Toni Natalie, Raniere’s former partner and his self-described “patient zero”. The book aims to serve both as a personal narrative and as a history of NXIVM, going back to the 1990s.

Uncover podcast season one – Escaping NXIVM

Radio producer and documentarian Josh Bloch investigates NXIVM in this podcast launched by CBC in 2018. Since then, Uncover has moved on to other cases, but Escaping NXIVM is a thorough look into the group, with contributions from Edmonson and one of Raniere’s attorneys.