Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2004. Chain Camera Pictures, HBO Documentary Films. Cinematography by Tom Hofbauer, Eddie Schmidt. Produced by Eddie Schmidt. Music by Blake Leyh. Film Editing by Jill Haag, Stephanie Hernstadt, Sandy Olkowski. Academy Awards 2004.
Firefighter Tony Comes is 33 years old and married with two children. His past sexual abuse by a priest comes back to haunt him when his abuser turns out to live eight houses down from him on his street. Comes reconnects with former classmates of his who suffered the same tragedy by the same priest, then undergoes the trauma of a long, drawn-out court battle which threatens to tear apart his personal life at home and his relationship with his mother. It also has a serious effect on his connection to the Catholic Church, by which he feels completely betrayed when he realizes that his reports against his abuser and many others were covered up and ignored by higher authorities in the Toledo diocese where he was a parishioner. This powerful film alternates scenes of Comes’s home life (much of which he and his wife shot themselves) with video footage of the accused priest’s deposition as well as glimpses at the effect that sexual abuse has had on other members of the Toledo Catholic community. It’s a provocative and not easily forgotten examination of the role of organized religion in society and the unethical use of secrecy and unaccountability that gives religious leaders their authority. While the film isn’t long enough, and wraps up too information too succinctly in its last twenty minutes, scenes such as Comes’s inability to let go of his rage, and his wife’s frustration at not being able to help him, are heartbreaking.