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“My whole company was destroyed and my whole life fell apart,” says Salzman, NXIVM’s president and co-founder with Raniere, in the trailer (below), which also features Raniere speaking from prison. “Going into this, I thought Keith was innocent. I was wrong,” Salzman tells the filmmakers.
Much has happened in the two years since The Vow first exposed NXIVM to a mainstream audience.
NXIVM, a company that masqueraded as a self-help group but was actually running a secret sex cult, and its leader Raniere were the subject of HBO’s nine-part documentary that aired in the fall of 2020. The blockbuster docuseries, which launched to critical acclaim, offered extensive access to insiders and former members of the NXIVM cult and became a hit for the cabler.
The series ran adjacent to the federal trial of Raniere and, in October of 2020, the week after The Vow’s finale aired, Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison after he was convicted of seven felonies.
The Vow helped expose the sex cult subgroup, a division called DOS (“Dominus Obsequious Sororium”), that involved female NXIVM members being physically branded with Raniere’s initials, brainwashed and forced into sexual slavery, among other abusive conditions.
Among Raniere’s co-defendants were former actress Allison Mack, a DOS “master” who was sentenced to three years in prison for racketeering and conspiracy related to her involvement in NXIVM; and Salzman’s daughter, Lauren Salzman, who was sentenced to five years of probation and 300 hours of community service for her role in the group.
Nancy Salzman was sentenced to 42 months in prison and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine. Her crimes involved stealing identities of the group’s critics and hacking into their email accounts, as well as conspiring to doctor videos showing her teaching NXIVM lessons.
The second season of The Vow boasts exclusive access to both Raniere and Nancy Salzman, featuring exclusive phone interviews with Raniere from prison and “extensive access” to Salzman as she examines her role in the rise of NXIVM, her relationship with Raniere and “ultimately wrestles with her involvement in growing an organization that was accused of fostering predatory behavior and criminal activity,” reads the description.
The first season ended with a nod to season two when it teased the interviews with Salzman and Raniere, the latter from his jail cell. He is now shown in the Part Two trailer from behind bars, while his voiceover questions how the brandings should take place: “Do you think the person who is being branded should be completely nude and sort of held to the table, sort of almost like a sacrifice?”
But the trailer focuses more on Salzman, the key Raniere player who finally sits down with the filmmakers in Part Two. “I wonder if she’s really waking up, or just trying to save herself,” asks NXIVM whistleblower and filmmaker Mark Vicente, who appeared frequently in the first docuseries.
Set against the backdrop of the federal trial of The United States v. Keith Raniere, the second season will follow the legal and emotional journeys of the group’s founders, supporters and defectors as new evidence and stunning revelations come to light, while federal prosecutors and defense attorneys engage in a trial in the national spotlight.
The logline reads: “The Vow, Part Two reveals the manifold ways that Raniere and a trusted inner circle of acolytes conspired to induct women into a female-only sect called DOS, a name derived from a Latin acronym meaning ‘Master of Obedient Women.’ Including illuminating footage from within NXIVM and chilling testimony from the trial, The Vow, Part Two goes beyond the headlines to delve deeply into the nature of psychological manipulation. The series also hears from staunch defenders of the work that Raniere and Salzman spearheaded with their Executive Success Programs.”
Other participants include former members featured in the first documentary Vicente, Bonnie Piesse, Sarah Edmondson, Vero Jaspeado, Karen Unterreiner; Raniere supporters Marc Elliot, Nicki Clyne (Mack’s ex-wife), Michele Hatchette and Eduardo Asunsolo; New York Post trial reporter Emily Saul; defense attorney Marc Agnifilo; lead prosecutor Moira Penza; and psychological manipulation expert Diane Benscoter.
The Vow, Part Two is an HBO Documentary Films production directed by Noujaim; produced by Mona Eldaief, Dan Hacker, Richard Hankin, John Miller-Monzon and Claire Reade; co-produced by Marina Nieto Ritger and Hana Wuerker; executive produced by Karim Amer, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Nina Fialkow, Lyn Davis Lear, Mike Lerner and Noujaim. Rosadel Varela is series producer and Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller and Sara Rodriguez exec produce for HBO.
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