Clergy sex abuse topic is relevant today: Michael Rezendes

By Sugandha Rawal

New Delhi, Oct 22 (IANS): "Spotlight" -- a film which infused life into an award-winning investigative teams story that exposed a Catholic paedophile scandal involving priests in Boston -- was named as the Best Picture at the Oscars this year. And Michael Rezendes, one of the journalists who worked on the story, says the relevance of the issue doesnt end with the movie.

In the film, Tom McCarthy's dramatic depiction shows the whole process of the 2002 investigation that blew open the child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and also puts in the spotlight the emotions that the journalists went through as it questioned their faith and religion. The investigative team of The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for the story.

"The clergy sex abuse topic is very relevant today. The Catholic Church has taken some steps to deal with these issues, but I think the church has a long way to go, particularly outside the United States. American bishops have adopted a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sex abuse. That has not been adopted by others around the world," Rezendes told IANS on the phone from Boston.

"The Vatican, in fact, 15 years later, is still studying the issue but has not come out with anything. I think the issue is very much alive. One of the reasons that I love the movie is because it puts the spotlight on the issue," he added.

The film -- starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d'Arcy James, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci -- will have its Indian television premiere on Sony Le Plex HD on Sunday.

Rezendes also pointed out that going down memory lane for the film was not a pleasant experience. He said it was emotionally draining.

"I was on the set with the ‘'Spotlight' team. About 80 per cent of the film was shot in Toronto in Canada because the government gives big tax breaks to make movies. The movie studio rebuilt the Globe newsroom and Spotlight event in an abandoned building.

"When I walked on to the set of the Spotlight office, it took me back in time and not all the memories about that time were pleasant," he said.

And the worldwide success of the film did surprise Rezendes.

"When I read the screenplay, I knew it was going to be a very good movie because of the brilliant screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer. But I didn't know that it will get this kind of success. I thought it will be a sort of smaller movie that would play in art houses but would never achieve commercial success," he said.

Why? Rezendes says because "the movie has no car chase, no explosions, not a single pile on, no guns, no sex scene, not even nudity. It is rare that a movie like that achieves this kind of success".

After looking at the impact the film has had, the journalist, who is in the middle of an investigation into the shortcomings of institutions for mental illnesses in Massachusetts, feels that the "movie has given our work a second life".

"I believe that a film is a much more powerful medium than print journalism," said Rezendes, who continues to be friends with the movie's entire team.

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