Ham&High Podcast: Andrew Gold on filming an ‘exorcist’ at work
- Credit: Andrew Gold
Journalist and documentary maker Andrew Gold was a Highgate resident until a few years ago, when he upped sticks for Buenos Aires and began investigating the work of a famous priest, who performs “exorcisms”.
On a mission to meet and learn about people outside the mainstream, a north London journalist found success with a documentary snapped up by the BBC.
Andrew Gold filmed - and on one occasion even participated in - exorcisms performed by the celebrity priest Padre Manuel Acuña in the impoverished outskirts of the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires.
In 2017 Andrew and director David Hayes met with the charismatic priest and began shooting what would become Exorcism: The Battle for Young Minds, which is still available on iPlayer.
The documentary shows the subjects of the exorcisms - two young women - at times writhing on the floor and screaming, with a cross held over them and the padre shouting down.
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“I thought this was going to be a bit of a lark,” Andrew told the Ham&High Podcast. “I had grown up watching a lot of Louis Theroux - that’s part of why I wanted to get into presenting documentaries, and making them - and I thought he was going to be maybe a funny character and this was all going to be a bit of fun.
“So I got to actually take part in the exorcism, the first one that we did...dangling the bells that are supposed to stave off the devil.
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“It was funny for about a minute and then there was the realisation of - okay, I don’t believe in the paranormal or anything like that - there’s a woman sort of splayed out in front of me, basically having a mental breakdown, as far as I was concerned - right in front of my eyes. That is as scary as anything paranormal.”
He said it became apparent how inappropriate it was that he was taking part in the ceremony itself “as if it was a funny, silly thing”. The decision was made that for the next one he would step back.
Andrew describes the padre’s methods as “populist”, operating in an impoverished part of the suburbs of Buenos Aires, where people would not have anyone to talk to about mental health issues.
“This guy was just so charming and he would do things like play them music from The Exorcist film - Tubular Bells - he played that during mass,” said Andrew.
Not only that but posters for the film were put up, with the padre’s face superimposed on the characters.
“It’s very much part of showing these people how they’re supposed to react, what research they need to do, what films and YouTube videos they need to look up,” he said.
During the course of filming the padre withdrew direct access for Andrew and eventually the crew’s presence led to a confrontation.
The padre confronted Andrew about questions he had allegedly been asking about his relationship with a young woman on whom he had performed an exorcism and who was now working closely with him.
“He took me into a room, he wouldn’t let my director in with me, and it was scary. In the film it’s two minutes of him screaming at me, with a few of his cronies around him.”
He continued: “In real like it was a good hour. I’m not used to that kind of confrontation and the thing was the director, David Hayes and I, were out in the middle of nowhere. It was past midnight in quite a dangerous area to be in. Nobody knew where we were. We weren’t doing this on behalf of the BBC or anything like that. We were just on our own.
“So it was really scary and what I noticed in that moment was that rather than being prepared to flee at any moment my legs turned to jelly, instantly, and I found myself in a situation saying ‘no, no, no but I didn’t say that’ and he’s saying ‘yes you did, call me Padre’ and all this stuff. And I was going: ‘Yes Padre, yes Padre.’
“Probably one of the scariest moments of my life, actually, in that little room.”
More recently, Andrew has been trying to get a documentary about an Argentinian anti-abortion campaigner released, and has moved into the world of podcasts
On the Edge, with Andrew Gold can be found on YouTube and as an audio release on podcast apps. In it he interviews characters such as a woman who can remember every moment of her life and a “coffin confessor” who crashes funerals to reveal the secrets of the dead, as well as more mainstream figures such as Lord Daniel Finkelstein.
For the full audio version of this interview, find the Ham&High Podcast in your regular podcast app, or go to https://podfollow.com/hamhigh.