The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping (2024). A three-episode documentary series on Netflix: a real horror film about certain educational institutions that, unfortunately, is not fiction

The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping is a documentary directed by Katherine Kubler.

Ivy Ridge was a private academy for troubled youth located in Ogdensburg, northern New York. If a parent had a problematic child, they would send them there to correct their behavior. Isolated from civilization, 10 hours away from major cities, Ivy Ridge promised to teach integrity, honor, and discipline through strict methods and a system of mind control that monitored every move of the teenagers, resulting in physical and mental humiliation. It was a system based on controlling minds and bodies, subjecting them to strict discipline until they succumbed under the pressure and finally obeyed the rules. That’s what good citizens do, right?

About the documentary series “The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping”

It is a series based on the many images recorded through home video cameras during the early 2000s. Ivy Ridge began admitting students in 2001, and student riots broke out in 2005. In “The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping”, several students recall what happened at that place, how their rules were, and how they were “indoctrinated” and turned into “good citizens” through a program that subjected their bodies and minds. And behind all of this (as you may have guessed), there was a thriving business in the education industry.

And it wasn’t just Ivy Ridge, because all over the world there were similar institutions with programs like the one described in the documentary, which becomes even more disturbing when we step outside the institution and see that throughout the United States and the world, there were dozens of businesses like this that turned into true torture camps for teenagers. Promising to straighten out their behavior, they became places of fear and even death.

As a documentary, “The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping” is a powerful lesson and a strong denunciation of these types of institutions and education. It tells the story of what happened during three hours, with testimonies from those who lived through those years and experienced their tragedy. In this sense, there is only one perspective, that of the students, those who suffered abuse and mistreatment.

It is narrated like a true crime, which is what it is at its core: a documentary about abuse and mistreatment of teenagers. It has all the elements that the genre demands: a horror soundtrack, hallway shots reminiscent of Kubrick, and everything is designed to seem more like a horror film than a reliable documentary.

However, there seems to be little doubt about what happened there, so aside from the horror movie aesthetic, it is a good way to learn about the facts and open up our minds, even if it is through these unfortunate events.

Our opinion

A regrettable set of events told efficiently in the style of a genre (true crime) that is gaining more and more followers and spreading in the documentary genre.

Do you remember when nature documentaries were popular? Now it’s these types of documentaries.

It’s clear that times are changing.

Where to Watch “The Program: Cons, Cults, and Kidnapping”


Veronica Loop
Veronica Loop
Veronica Loop is the managing director of MCM. She is passionate about art, culture and entertainment. Contact: veronica (@) martincid (.) com
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