Sunday, 28 February 2016

Movie Review: Spotlight

Spotlight follows the team that uncovered sex abuse in the Catholic Chuch
I just came back from seeing Spotlight, which is nominated for six Academy Awards, though pundits are saying its chances of winning golden statues are slim because it's all dialogue and no dramatic chase or sex scenes.

It has won a host of other awards from Bafta, Critics Choice Movie Award, National Society of Film Critics Award and others, though we hope the film will get an Oscar nod -- or two.

Like All The Presidents Men that inspired a generation or two of people to become journalists, Spotlight will hopefully do the same, though the economic conditions of running the paper takes more precedence than the stories it runs these days.

Nevertheless, Spotlight is based on true events about an investigative team at The Boston Globe called Spotlight. A new editor in chief comes in, Marty Baron, who is Jewish and new to Boston.

The actors in Spotlight with the real reporters of The Globe
He finds it curious that there was no follow up on a case about a priest molesting children and gets the Spotlight team to work on it. And what they uncover is not just one, but many more priests in Boston who committed the same horrific crime.

The church's pervasive influence over Boston is evident, with a code of silence the reporters must break, in some cases ruining friendships and connections to get the truth.

At first the dialogue flies fast with lots of names to follow, but soon we grasp what's going on and especially the magnitude of the case, as we discover the facts as the reporters do.

They talk to lots of victims, hearing their stories which corroborates with what a former priest, now academic who has studied pedophile priests for three decades, they badger the lawyers who represented the church, and finally get the trust of a lawyer who has been trying to prosecute the church for years.

In their investigation, the reporters uncover that The Globe was also complicit -- hardly questioning what was going on, and dismissing victims as weak sources.

Cardinal Law is now an archpriest in The Vatican
In the end Spotlight wrote 600 stories about priests abusing people in 2002 and Cardinal Bernard Francis Law who did nothing about it, except shift the priests around, finally resigned in the same year.

The Vatican didn't punish him, but instead transferred him to be archpriest of one of Rome's four papal basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore.

Law is in his mid-80s and hasn't spoken publicly about the expose, or his part in it; instead he remains cloistered in The Vatican. Law gets the last laugh.

But the reverberations of the original breaking story are not over -- Pope Francis is trying to tackle the issue now, though as delicately as possible, but at least has acknowledged the pain of the victims, many who turned to drugs and alcohol or even suicide.

Being in the same occupation, I was riveted watching the movie from beginning to end. We don't see much of the team's dynamics except that they are completely focused on their goal, and they like being able to keep their work confidential even to their colleagues.

Nevertheless, Spotlight reminded me of my job -- to inform the public of what's really going on. Hong Kong is an interesting city because it too is like Boston in how the wealthy and powerful determine how much a story can be reported.

And with the growing cold climate that President Xi Jinping is casting over the media sector these days, more restrictions will be an added challenge. We must have courage.

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