Director: Kirby Dick
Topic: Gripping account of Toledo firefighter Tony Comes, a family man who finds the strength to come forward about his past — decades after having been sexually abused by a priest. Told through Comes’ personal perspective (his adolescent abuse interferes with all aspects of his adult life), the film also addresses the Catholic Church’s lenient response to such abuse
Financier: HBO, which will air the film in 2005, possibly after a theatrical run.
Budget: Around $500,000
Shooting format: DV Cam, including intimate scenes shot by Comes, the subject, using a consumer DV camera provided by the director.
Why it made the list: The first film on the topic since the explosion of clergy sex abuse reports out of Boston in 2002, the doc handles the painful subject with honesty and objectivity, exposing the diocese’s questionable handling of various incidents, while still respecting the Catholic faith and acknowledging the beneficial role it plays in the Toledo community.
Memorable scene: When Comes learns his abuser lives five houses away from him and his family, he tells his 10-year-old daughter about his childhood ordeal. After warning that she must never come into any contact with this bad man down the street, Comes weeps and tells her that even all these years later, “it still hurts in here” — while pointing to his heart.
Distribution/ broadcast status: Dick plans to look for theatrical distribution when the film has its world premiere at Sundance in January — a process that worked for his films “Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist” and “Derrida.”
On making the film:
“We sat down with Tony and his wife, Wendy, and explained that we were interested in presenting his story because we felt it was important that the thousands of other people in his situation have a chance to see someone going through it,” says Dick. “Based on that, he actually told us ‘yes’ after our first meeting. I think he really was ready to go forward — to tell the world what he had experienced.”
“We do want the Catholic Church to take responsibility for this,” says Dick, “because it’s something that traumatizes individuals, families, and entire communities.”