Friday, June 3, 2005

Twist of Faith

This emotionally trying documentary was almost as hard for me to get through as the Paradise Lost/West Memphis Three documentaries.

Tony Comes is a firefighter, family man, and a genuinely good guy. He was sexually abused during several of his teenage years by a priest at his church, but had suppressed those experiences until he buys a new house with his family -- and finds that the priest lives in another house just down the block. Prompted by the urge to protect others from the same experience, he reports the incidents to his church, and the church begins a cover-up operation to protect itself form scrutiny.

What follows is a terribly emotional journey for Tony in which he questions his church, his family and friend's loyalty, and witnesses the disintegration of his marriage because he can't get the justice he needs in order to move on. All the while, he's clinging to his faith in god and trying to reconcile that with the Catholic Church he grew up in. How can he trust them now? Some of the most poignant moments in the documentary come from the cameras director Kirby Dick provided Tony and his wife Wendy, in order to record their own thoughts. Some of the most frightening moments come from the abuser's deposition, in which it's clear that he has no idea what he's done to these boys was (or still is) wrong.

I'd also like to add something here about the audience I saw this with: I am not a religious person by any means, and organized religion drives me up the wall -- however, when there's a lot of laugher (of the ha-ha funny variety, not the uncomfortable variety) during a very serious and sad documentary, and the Q&A leads people to ask questions about why Tony wanted to continue going to church, I find it kind of insulting. It was clear that he wanted to keep his strong connection to god, and he wasn't sure if he could still do that through a church that had lied and not protected him, but man. It was the only way he could hold on to it, and since he was losing everything else, it made sense that he'd cling to his beliefs.

Speaking of the Q&A, it was just as emotional as the documentary itself. In addition to the director, one of the abuse survivors, Matthew Simon, came up to answer questions and the entire audience exploded out of their seats and clapped and cried with him. I recommend you see this (premiering on June 28th on HBO); just be prepared to take a long time recovering from it.

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