Alex Gibney explores the charged issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, following a trail from the first known protest against clerical sexual abuse in the United States and all the way to the Vatican.
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Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney exposes the abuse of power in the Catholic Church and a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee Wisconsin, through the bare ruined choirs of Ireland's churches all the way to the highest office of the Vatican. By investigating the secret crimes of a charismatic priest who abused over 200 deaf children in a school under his control - the film shows the face of evil that lurks behind the smiles and denials of authority figures and institutions who believe that because they stand for good they can do no wrong. Written by
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American producer and documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney's documentary feature which he wrote and co-produced, premiered in the Documentaries section at the 37th Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, was shot on location in Ireland and Italy and is an American production which was produced by producers Kristen Vaurio, Alexandra Johnes, Todd Wider and Jedd Wider. It tells the story about four deaf men named Terry Kohut, Gary Smith, Arthur Budzinski and Pat Kuehn who during the 1950s-1970s lived at a Catholic school for hearing children called St John's school for the deaf which they had come to wishing to become good Roman Catholics. As children staying in that individual community which they viewed as a place of love, Terry, Gary, Arthur and Pat was, amongst many other children, singled out by a man of significant authority named Lawrence C. Murphy. This teacher and theologian who was raised in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the US, who in 1950 as a 25-year-old man became legally incorporated as a priest in 1950 and thirteen years later was promoted to director of St John's, was loved by all of the children at the school who sought for his attention, had a way of getting them to follow him wherever he wanted them to and do whatever he wanted them to do and used his pedagogical skills and superior stature to psychologically abuse them so that they would be oblivious and comply when he sexually assaulted them.
Subtly and precisely directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney, this finely paced documentary which is narrated by Alex Gibney and from multiple viewpoints, draws a multifaceted portrayal of four men's courageous, arduous and determined fight for justice and a worldwide investigation of the Vatican which was instigated by a single letter which was written by a student at St John's in the early 1970s to a Cardinal named Angelo Sodano, an Irish singing priest and an Italian priest and fundraiser for the Catholic Church who founded the Legion of Christ. Through the four men whose stories are voiced by American actors Chris Cooper, Ethan Hawke, Jamey Sheridan and John Slattery, pictures, newspaper articles, 8mm video recordings, a promotion video, news clips, recreations interviews with a mental health counsellor with 18 years of experience as a Benedictine Monk who studied celibacy in the priesthood for two and a half decades, a former Benedictine Monk who was given a special assignment by the Church, a former senior boys dorm supervisor at St John's, Gary Smith's attorney, a seasoned priest and public whistle-blower with a doctorate in canon law named Thomas Doyle, an Italian Vatican correspondent named Marco Politi, a Rome correspondent, a human rights lawyer, an Irish television reporter, an Irish co-founder of a website, suspended by the Vatican, called CountMeOut which encourages Irish citizens to leave the Catholic Church, an Italian co-founder of a website called Anticlericale, an American national religion correspondent for the New York Times and an Archbishop in the parish of Milwaukee, this narrative-driven non-fictional feature which examines what happened after a student accused a member of the Vatican of child molestation in the late 20th century, renders a history of sexual abuse within this absolute monarchy which traces as far back as 1700 years.
This thorough, sociological, somewhat historic, at times astoundingly humorous, considering the methods believed and suggested as the "cure" for paedophile clergymen and solutions to the Vatican's problem with these men, and audaciously and prominently critical documentary, is impelled and reinforced by its fragmented narrative structure, architectural and atmospheric cinematography by cinematographer Lisa Rinzler, timely score by composers Ivor Guest and Robert Logan, the interrelated story of a former student at St John's, the poignantly contrasting scene from an animated film, the insightful comments by the interviewees and the unflattering depiction of the today internationally recognized state and theocracy in Rome, Italy which was established during the late 1920s when Italy was ruled by a fascist regime and where the holy Pope is head of state and government and has the sole and utmost political and judicial power. An informative, revealing, praiseworthy and somewhat foreseeable documentary feature about double standards, crime, the parody of power and the unjustifiable and unlawful silence of those many clerics, sworn to absolute secrecy, which may have protected their independent authority from another scandal for a while, but which only served to cause more sexual crimes from the holy fathers whom they shielded and who kept on murdering the innocence of children.
The importance of the media, the parents and all the other men and women who put pressure on the ministry is evident in this emphatic and empathetic piece of filmmaking which questions the hierarchy within the Vatican, which is dedicated to the students of St. John's school for the deaf, where many revering Roman Catholics speaks their mind and where twelve words uttered as expressively as possible through sign language lingers. "I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about child molestation." Bob Bolger
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