December 26, 2021 – This documentary film, directed by Robert Greene (“Kate Plays Christine”) is unique in that it serves as psychological therapy for victims of child sexual abuse, as well as telling stories about the victims.
The dramatic reenactments of “triggering memories” of childhood abuse are staged for the film. The scenes and scripts for each dramatic scene are scripted by the same adults who were abused. In at least one case, the victim provided actual storyboards to set up the scene.
One particularly angry man said he was incensed by the treatment he received from an official review board that looked into his claims of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest. For therapy, the review board was recreated. In a heated scene, the victim gets to say all the profanity-laced things to them that wished he had said at the time it originally happened.
In another scene, a man literally faces his nightmares. Returning to the very house by a lake where he was abused by a Catholic priest, he is overcome by emotion, but later in the film, he said the recurring nightmares about that place stopped after he acted in that scene.
Other scenes are staged with a child actor who had volunteered for this project. The other actors in these scenes, however, are abuse victims themselves, and have volunteered to play the parts of priests and other people in order to help their fellow victims.
In one scene, the victim who had scripted the scene stood in the background and told the “priest” what to say to the boy, who represented him as a boy. When the scene got a little too close to the actual abuse, the victim yelled “cut!” very loud. The scene clearly showed the emotional manipulation used by the priest, combined with his moral authority over the child, to get what he wanted out of the boy.
Another scene depicts the time an abuse victim is delivered to his abuser, a Catholic priest, along with a chocolate cake, by his own mother. In a powerful scene, the victim confronts his abuser and his enablers, and angrily smashes the cake down on a table.
Another man returns to the scene of his abuse, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he rings the church bell, revisiting a scene from his childhood. Another man returns to a lake where he had accidentally broken a fishing pole, and was abused by a priest for his “punishment.”
These scenes are very powerful because the emotional effect on the participants is so evident. The anger and pain from events that happened decades ago is still fresh in their minds, but reenacting these scenes seems to help the victims. The scenes seem to give them a chance to confront feelings, and release feelings, that had been bottled for so long. They had felt so helpless as children, but now, they feel more in control of their feelings.
This is a very moving film which sheds more light on the enormous damage of widespread child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. More recently, over 90,000 sex abuse claims have been filed in court cases against the Boy Scouts of America. These are not the whole story, just the cases that have gotten the most news coverage.
Since society places so little value on children, after they are born, at least, chances are that child sexual abuse will just keep happening. Once it does, it looks like this kind of drama therapy is one tool to deal with the damage done. This film rates a B.
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