Last night my wife and I were able to watch an exceptional movie – one of those rare cinematic experiences that combines gripping performances with a compelling story-line and a powerful message.
And it is a message that ALL Jehovah’s Witnesses must hear sooner or later.
Directed by Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight” tells the story of a group of reporters at the Boston Globe whose exceptional Pullitzer prize-winning journalism blew the lid off the widespread abuse of children by priests in the Boston area, leading to a wave of similar exposés across America and the world.
The dedication, conscientiousness and tenacity of those journalists back in 2001, when little was known about institutional child abuse, is perfectly portrayed by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber, who all put in riveting performances.
Stanley Tucci also excels in the role of a lawyer who is fiercely protective of his clients who are victims of abuse – a role reminiscent of Irwin Zalkin or Rick Simons, both of whom were tasked with representing abuse victims from an equally-negligent religious hierarchy: the Watch Tower Society.
Indeed, the similarities to Watchtower’s lies, subterfuge and cover-ups regarding child molestation come thick and fast. Those like me who are familiar with the torrent of cases that have come to light since the 2012 Candace Conti verdict will easily register the parallels – especially the tangible distress of those whose lives are forever scarred by sadistic predators in positions of trust.
It could be that a film this brilliant will one day tell the story of Watchtower’s mishandling of child molestation. But in a way, I think Spotlight would still be a more powerful tool for alerting believing Jehovah’s Witnesses to the scourge of molestation within their faith, because it delivers its message without referencing Watchtower once.
Of course, I would never expect an indoctrinated Witness family member to immediately notice the similarities, or leap out of their chair yelling “eureka” because they finally understand the ease with which child abuse can be hidden, and the difficulty in uncovering it.
But the beauty of films like Spotlight, Alex Gibney’s multiple Emmy Award-winning Going Clear, Meet the Mormons and Louis Theroux’s two excellent documentaries on the Westboro Baptist Church (available on iTunes) is that they hold the promise of clearing some of the fog in the cult victim’s mind.
The effect might not be immediate. It may take many years for the penny to drop. But these compelling films ask all the right questions, and can forge cerebral connections where previously there were none.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to dissolving years, or even decades, of layered cult indoctrination. But movies like Spotlight offer a unique and subtle means of planting seeds that might just ease the process of awakening your indoctrinated loved one further down the line.
There’s certainly nothing to lose by trying.
You will have to check what your local options are for watching Spotlight either at the cinema or using an “on demand” service. But you can pre-order a copy of the DVD by clicking here.