If you haven’t seen the movie Spotlight yet, run don’t walk to the nearest movie house showing it–while they still are.
It’s about real journalists doing the real work of uncovering institutional sexual abuse within the Catholic church. And the stories of real survivors who got together and came forward in the early days when disclosure was so difficult.
Before I saw it I was concerned that it would be exploitive, that the portrayal of men abused in childhood by priests would be sensationalized. It’s such a balancing act, to make the damage done real and yet portray the genuine strengths of survivors, not turn us into pitiful victims.
But they nailed it.
Neil Huff as Phil Saviano, the founder of SNAP, portrayed a man who was outraged and disheartened but not defeated by his attempts to get the story told, determined to help others like himself and to speak the truth in a world that wouldn’t listen. You will see the very beginnings of SNAP, a survivor organization that has gone from few men and women meeting for mutual support to an advocacy organization that has change the world.
But the focus of the movie is on the journalists. You see their personal questioning and their initial disbelief of the extent of child sexual abuse. You see the persistent leg work that uncovered not just a few abusive priests but a whole institution designed to protect and reassign them, putting more and more children at risk. You see how the private lives of the journalists were changed, the loss of faith in their religion, the discovery of abusers in the neighborhood, the stunning conversations with survivors who chose to come forward and talk on the record.
There is even one start of an interview with an abusive priest that says it all about denial and dissociation.
No, it’s not a documentary. But when you see the actors and the people they portray side by side, you realize how carefully the script was made, the subjects portrayed.
For me personally it was a confirmation of all that Jonathan and I did with his chapter; even the church lawyer who bought families’ silence was there. I saw it twice, once during the day with a friend (trigger insurance), then with my husband and son.
I guarantee that when you see it, you will come away with a greater faith in the goodness of ordinary people doing their jobs and with a deeper sense of our own history as survivors during this transformative time.