Magazine article Screen International

Alex Gibney

Magazine article Screen International

Alex Gibney

Article excerpt

Screen talks to Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney about new film Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, about paedophilia in the Catholic Church, which yesterday picked up the Best Documentary prize at the London Film Festival.

How did you come to this film?

I was raised Catholic, so this subject has resonance for me. I knew about the scandal, but I didn't see an obvious story until this one came out in the New York Times. I was appalled by it, of course, but was also drawn to it. You can trace this crime all the way to the top. That part intrigued me.

The victims in your film were the first to publically protest this issue in the US?

Yes, the film's Milwaukee subjects were the 'patient zeros'. Not the first ones to be abused but the first - that we were able to identify - to protest publically. They have been trying to get their story heard for more than forty years.

How co-operative was the Catholic Church?

The church wasn't receptive at all. There were some key individuals who were. I had wanted to talk to a man in Rome who had formerly been Pope Ratzinger's chief prosecutor but that was impossible.

What surprised you most while making the film?

Things emerged as we went. There's stuff out there that you never expect to find. We knew we wanted to make the connection with Rome, for example, which many other documentaries haven't. When we were there we discovered a deaf school in Verona where a priest had abused many deaf children. How much more exact could the patterns be?

In another instance, it turned out the characters we had followed in Milwaukee had confronted their abuser but the video-tape had been lost. The question was: could we find it? We did and the moment captured on film was very emotive.

What stage are the Milwaukee cases at now?

The victims are getting more traction in their cases. The Church is putting up millions of dollars to block them - I think it has spent at least $7m in Milwaukee alone to try and prevent them from seeing Church owned documents. The Church has not given the victims justice, so they're now trying to force justice on the Church through the legal system. The Church cares so much about power so it's unsurprising that they are trying to resist them.

How is the distribution coming along?

It has an adventurous distributor in Italy in the shape of Feltrinelli who are aiming to do a stunt theatrical release with simultaneous screenings in multiple cinemas around the country. …

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