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Sometimes you come across documentary films that take your breath away. Does not even matter whether they are well made or not. This one is very well made indeed, by one of the leading and currently apparently excessively productive documentary forces Alex Gibney. But just reading some facts would be enough: over decades, priests sexually abused, molested and raped children under their care, and plenty of them being deaf children living in dedicated church-run boarding schools. As if that was not bad enough, the church’s institutions knew about it for decades, there is even footage and letters in which the persons in question clearly admit to their acts of crime. There is a letter from one priest to the Vatican in which he bluntly admits his past actions, but promises to spend the probably short rest of his life being a good and humble servant of the church. And he’s off the hook… And if that was not bad enough, the internal legal procedures prevented most of the perpetrators from being prosecuted either by the church or by regular law enforcement and judiciary, the canonical law of the Vatican protecting most from prosecution. As if that was not bad enough, the emerging cases were at some point all directed onto the desk of one person, future Pope Josef Ratzinger. And hardly anything happened… some priests were sent to work in other parishes, the purchase of remote islands to create pedophile-priest camps was considered, known pedophiles raise within the ranks of the church while the church’s management knew everything that’s to be known about their deeds. What elevates this film from a statement of devastating facts to an impressive piece of film-making is in particular the statements of the victims, many of them deaf and using sign language in the interviews. This may be due to the fact that I am not used to watching people sign, but nothing is as heart breaking as watching one victim describe and depict how one particular priest came into the sleeping dorm of the children every night, staking out his prey like a wolf stakes out sheep, and then picking one for the night. And what’s best? At the end of the day the film carries a positive spirit, of people who are willing to put up a fight against silence in the house of God, against injustice and ignorance, against an Omerta all over the world that seeks to protect the criminals and ignores, sometimes tries to cheat the victims. That’s what documentary film-making is about!

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