An Article Written By Amy Berg in The Huffington Post
I am the director and producer of the film Deliver Us From Evil the Movie, a documentary about a pedophile priest who was protected from justice for over 25 years by the Catholic Church under the direct eye of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. I have spent the past four years investigating this story as a journalist (at KCBS News and CNN Investigations), and have written and produced numerous stories documenting church cover-up and blatant manipulation of parishioners and innocent Catholic families.
Recently the MPAA shared their decision with Lionsgate, the film’s distributor, to disapprove the Deliver Us From Evil trailer for general audiences due to “overt comments about child molestation throughout.” They didn’t offer any specific feedback about an offending image or word (and indeed there were no graphic images or swear words included), but rather the very idea of child sexual abuse was cited, despite the MPAA having been provided a list of films to be targeted for trailer attachment that included only R rated films. The MPAA would have slapped the trailer with a ‘red band’ rating, a very rare label that in effect relegates the trailer to art house theaters, as most mainstream exhibitors won’t play red band trailers even in front of R rated films for fear of backlash. Because of this, Lionsgate has no real choice but to release the film (and thus the trailer) unrated by the MPAA. It is important to me to tell the truth about this issue and sadly that just wasn’t possible within the MPAA’s parameters.
This film and its trailer deals frankly with an important and very real ongoing social ill- and one that is routinely discussed on primetime and network news at that. In fact, the red banded trailer opens with a Paula Zahn news segment which covers a portion of the very same story as does the film. That it would be disapproved for mainstream exhibition is especially infuriating given that I have repeatedly seen horror film trailers that depict women being tortured or mutilated in connection with sexual activity, murder, gunfire and other extremely disturbing adult content playing before PG13 movies.
But I fear there is more at play here than the longstanding hypocrisy exhibited by the MPAA and other cultural institutions when it comes to censoring sex vs. violence. Through this year’s brilliant documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, made by my colleague Kirby Dick, I have discovered that two clergy members are present (and possibly involved) during the film rating process. I do not know whether there were clergy involved in the MPAA’s decision to disapprove the trailer, but given the atmosphere in which these decisions are made, I can’t help but fear that perhaps it was as much the idea of high ranking Church officials as fallible and possibly even criminal that the MPAA found unacceptable as it was the idea of sexual abuse.
Along these same lines, this week Cardinal Mahony presided over a “Red-Mass” in Los Angeles for thousands of members of the judicial system- invitees spanned all the way up to members of the US Supreme Court, the District Attorney and City Attorney. Police Department heads were also invited to a special law enforcement mass the previous week. These officials, who often have private dinners with Mahony and accept communion from him personally, are likely to see clergy cases and survivors in their courtrooms (there are over 550 civil sexual abuse cases that have been brought against the Los Angeles Archdiocese since the scandal erupted) need to be able to evaluate both sides of the issue impartially. Thus, 600 of the same public officials were asked to attend a screening of my film held immediately prior to the Mass and sponsored by SNAP, the Survivors Network Of Those Abused By Priests, in a bid for them to simply give equal time to the victims of clergy abuse as they were giving to the Archdiocese and Roger Mahony. None attended.
What must the 100,000 survivors of clergy abuse (and the vast number of survivors who have yet to come forward) feel like seeing the government officials who are supposed to protect, represent and serve them behave in this way, and seeing a trailer for a film that honestly depicts their ordeal and the very fact of their abuse be treated by the MPAA as unacceptable for mainstream Americans to view and understand?