Sunday, 28 February 2016

A Pinoy @ The Movies: Spotlight

When I was in high school, a properly dressed man, who I thought was in his 50's, came over to the house. He said he was a former priest who got excommunicated by the Catholic Church because he 'had a wife and a son'. I guess he must have fathered a child first before being excommunicated. And I also guess he must have married the woman after having been freed from his vow of chastity. 

He came to the house to ask for financial help from the family and ended up meeting Lola Tinay, the matriarch, who happened to be at the living room at that time with my sister, who was a toddler then. Lola Tinay (lola is Filipino word of grandma) was trailed by my baby sister, who was in turn being trailed by her babysitter. And I trailed the three of them.

The ex-priest spoke very good English and he even politely addressed Lola Tinay as 'madam'. Listening to him, I realized that this was a highly educated man and I felt that his story was probably true. But unfortunately for him, during those years, Lola Tinay was already suffering moments of senility and I told him that. He then realized his words of plea were simply falling into deaf ears, so to speak. Lola Tinay hardly attended to him and, other than me, he probably thought talking to the yaya wasn't a good idea either. He left the house unsuccessful. 

Spotlight is a movie about how The Boston Globe newspaper broke out the story about the sex abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests around the Boston area. That's why, as I was watching the movie, the story of that ex-priest asking for help from Lola Tinay rewound in my mind.

Spotlight is one of the best films of the year, and is nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Michael Keaton plays the head of the Spotlight investigative team. Here, he has no Birdman delusions, but leads his team of investigative journalists. 

Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, both members of the Spotlight team, are nominated for best supporting Oscar. Mark Ruffalo used to be Hulk in The Avengers, where he had anger management problems. Here, he only flared up once and didn't turn green. And his habit of pursing his lips in the movie earned him best supporting actor nominations.

I went to a Catholic school run by priests, and I was an altar boy when I was 9. I grew up being taught and disciplined by priests. So, when the movie reaches the scenes where the Spotlight team slowly uncovers the cover-ups of the Catholic church of the sex abuses on young boys by pedophile priests, like the rest of the audience, I, too, was angry that at least 70 priests abused their authority over the young and gratified themselves with all the prey under their care. 

At the end of the film, before the closing credits, the US cities and other parts of the world where sex abuse by Catholic priests were reported were flashed on screen. I deliberately tried to spot if there was any from the Philippines, and I saw one! 'Naval, the Philippines' it said. I wonder how many children were victimized in that city.

Aside from that ex-priest and Lola Tinay story, I also remember one involving a parish priest from my hometown. The 'story' was he was having an affair with a local businesswoman, and (forgive me, Father, for I have sinned if this was gossip!) that he was laundering the church money using her local business. During those years, her shop indeed flourished! I wonder if it was because of hard work, or if it was because of the manna from heaven. Ha-ha-ha!

The reason why it's one of the best films of the year is that the Spotlight brings you, the moviegoer, into its cat-and-mouse investigation of the sex abuse, gets you frustrated as well when the team hits a wall, and finally, also gives you a lot of satisfaction when the whole story comes to light and the abuses' cover-up is made public. But with all the recognition the Spotlight team received from the story, there remains thousands of abused and scarred lives and youthful innocence that could never be regained.   

Officials from the Vatican have watched this movie, and so should you.

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