For the past year and a half, Hollywood filmmakers Cecilia Peck and Inbal Lessner have been traveling to and from the Albany area.
At its core, their Starz docu-series "Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult" asks the same question many Capital Region natives have also been wondering: How could a group, accused of sex trafficking, have thrived in suburban Albany? Why did this happen?
The series follows India Oxenberg, daughter of actress Catherine Oxenberg and granddaughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, who spent a number of years in NXIVM and was later recruited into the all women’s group DOS, where she was branded.
"India has quite an extraordinary background, but she also could be anyone’s daughter," explains Peck. "She was an intelligent, loved young girl of 19 years old who had just done her first year of college and wanted to start a catering business."
Oxenberg and other victims in the series said they were originally drawn to Clifton Park and Keith Raniere’s teachings because they thought it would help them grow.
Raniere, co-founder of NXIVM, was found guilty last June of charges including sex trafficking, racketeering, and forced labor conspiracy. The racketeering charge included an underlying act of sexual exploitation of a child. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced October 27.
"I think we tried to tell a story, a tale of caution to help people understand and possibly identify those red flags, identify what can happen when you let these things go, when you’re saying, ‘Oh, well, it’s a strange group. Perhaps it’s unusual teachings. Perhaps this guy is just eccentric.' Really looking to what goes on behind closed doors," said Lessner.
Raniere's followers maintain his innocence. On Monday, his attorneys filed a motion for a new trial, claiming witnesses like Nicki Clyne were threatened by prosecutors.
Clyne wrote in an affidavit that her attorney was told, "first, we are going to cut the head of the snake off, and then we're coming for the body. This is not going away for her."
The Starz series also includes interviews with Spectrum News reporter Jaclyn Cangro. New episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. on Starz.