The sex abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church
knows no national boundaries and complaints have filed in from Ireland,
Spain, the United States and other parts of the world. Filmmakers
have also begun to tackle the subject matter in both nonfiction and
fiction. In the 2005 Oscar nominated documentary TWIST OF FAITH,
filmmaker Kirby Dick profiled a survivor of child abuse at the hands
of a priest. For her first film, DELIVER US FROM EVIL, Amy Berg
accomplished what might first seem impossible: she secured the
cooperation of a convicted pedophile, a former priest named Oliver
O'Grady, who now lives in Ireland. Intercutting O'Grady's interviews
with those of three survivors as well as video depositions of his
superiors (including Los Angeles' current Archbishop, Roger Cardinal
Mahoney), Berg creates a chilling portrait of an institution that comes
across as corrupt and blind as any one could imagine.
Berg takes an interesting approach to filming O'Grady. At first,
the viewer only hears his lilting Irish voice while her camera catches
glimpses him in part or in shadows. In a primal way, Berg is equating
O'Grady with the usual movie monsters who are almost never fully
revealed until they are ready to spring into action. Later, it becomes
disconcerting to realize that O'Grady -- now defrocked and a convicted
felon in the United States -- roams freely throughout Ireland. Quite a
number of the interviews with him are shot near playgrounds or parks
or other areas where young children roam freely about, which raise any
number of issues. O'Grady also appears to have a disassociative
personality -- when he speaks of the heinous crimes he committed (his
victims ranged in age from nine months to pre-teens) he resorts to
euphemism and displays a lack of understanding for the horrors he
Interviewing O'Grady alone might have made for a strange
experience, but Berg puts his actions into context. The use of the
videotaped depositions is stunning -- one can almost see the
bishops and the priests interviewing squirming and trying to formulate
answers that won't implicate themselves. Essentially, the hierarchy of
the Church failed the parishioners of Central California when they
moved O'Grady around like a game board piece. When things got too
difficult in one town, he was shuttled off to another within a fifty-mile
Berg also includes footage of interviews with abuse survivors,
including an adult woman who was seduced by the priest so he could
get to her son. The most poignant and most difficult to watch is
an interview with the parents of one female victim. Her father, a
convert to Catholicism, becomes fed up with the use of genial terms
to describe what happened and blurts out "he raped my daughter."
The man's agony and pain over not being able to protect his child
is so palpable it is heartbreaking.
Additionally, the film includes a canon law expert, a priest who
doesn't tow the party line as it were and actually is on the side of
the victims, a policeman involved in the investigation who has a
strange tie to the priest, and a psychologist who offers her insights.
Except for a few flourishes such as clearly staged shots of
O'Grady and the trite use of a map to show his movements, Berg has
crafted a disturbing and well-made documentary that sheds additional
light on this continuously unfolding scandal.
MPAA Rating: None
Running time: 101 mins.
Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
|Deliver Us from Evil
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.