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Movie Review: Spotlight
Reporters dig deep for the truth
Oscar Potrero

Spotlight tells the true story of how reporters at the Boston Globe uncover a sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Set in 2001, the film starts out with Marty Baron being hired as the newspaper’s new editor.

Baron assigns the Spotlight team, a special investigative division, to look into a lead that certain local priests have been molesting boys and that the church was aware of it and protecting them. The reporters soon discover that the allegations are true and even more widespread than they thought.

They start their investigation by interviewing several victims who have come forward. “When you’re a poor kid from a poor town, religion counts for a lot and when a priest pays attention to you, it’s a big deal…. It’s like God asking for help,” says one man, a leader for a group of victims. As someone from a poor, Catholic family, that’s something that I can relate to. Religion is something my parents value a lot, and so they are influenced by what priests say.

The movie also shines a light on how much power big institutions like the Church have and how they sometimes abuse that power. The Church was good at covering up priests’ actions so most people didn’t know the severity of the abuse problem. In one part of the movie Spotlight editor Robby Robinson’s friend Peter Conley, who is a powerful and influential man on the board of Catholic Charities, tries to convince Robby not to pursue the story. He tries to manipulate Robby’s judgment by telling him the public needs the Church more than ever since the recent 9/11 attack. Of course that shouldn’t be a reason to keep the truth from people.

A Voice for Victims

image by Open Road Films, LLC

And the truth was that rather than investigating the child-molesting priests and telling the police, Church leaders reassigned them to other churches where they abused more children. This happened with more than 70 priests in Boston alone. A church representative would go to the families of the victims to convince the parents not to press charges.

Ultimately, when the story is published in 2002, the Spotlight reporters provide a voice for the victims. I love this movie because it shines a light on the importance of investigative journalism, which digs deep for the truth in spite of all the pressure the reporters got to keep what they learned quiet. It’s the job of journalists to question those in power and hold them accountable.

Moreover, the movie provides a lesson about the significance of speaking up for oneself. We see victims agree to let the journalists use their stories and names to prevent more abuse. Also, one of the more powerful scenes for me was at the end—victims calling in after reading the article.

I particularly like the soundtrack, which is subtle. In one scene, as the Spotlight team is racing to get the story done, a chorus of singing children plays in the background. It perfectly builds the suspense of the oncoming deadline as the scene also shows the reporters interviewing as many victims as possible for the story.

The movie takes place 15 years ago so after seeing it I wanted to see if outing pedophiles was being more proactively pursued by the Church now. I was discouraged to read in Newsweek that new bishops aren’t required to report sexual abuse to police, “as it’s the responsibility of the victims and their families.” And according to the New York Times, Pope Francis’s remarks when he visited the United States were more supportive of the clergy who were handling the stress of the abuse scandal than of the victims.

Furthermore, there are still priests and other members of the church accused of alleged sexual abuse misconduct who are being reassigned to other positions.

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