An upcoming movie on the sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston has caused one screenwriter to worry that the film could exploit sex abuse for the sake of Hollywood awards.
“I have very big concerns about making the molestation of children the subject of entertainment,” screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi told CNA April 10.
“These are real people’s lives that have gotten ruined. We want to really pray that this movie doesn’t end up victimizing the victims all over again by turning their suffering into spectacle.”
Nicolosi, a former religious sister, is the founder of the Act One training program for Christians seeking careers in the entertainment industry.
She said she believes a movie about the abuse scandal is similar to screenplays about sex trafficking – both of which are not suitable for entertainment. “They're never okay. You always feel that it’s a subject that should have been done in a documentary, not as a narrative.”
DreamWorks Studio and Participant Media announced on April 2 that they have acquired the film rights to the Boston Globe’s reporting on sex abuse cover-ups in the Archdiocese of Boston. The investigation found that Church authorities placed known abusers back in ministry. The coverage led to the 2003 resignation of Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law.
Dreamworks president of production Holly Bario said the Boston Globe coverage of the abuse scandal “opened the door to a bigger story that had worldwide ramifications.”
“The story of how this team of editors and reporters came to uncover the truth will make a dramatic and compelling film,” Bario said.
However, Nicolosi was skeptical that journalists would be the focus of the movie.
“As a dramatist, I’m trained to go for the highest stakes. The fact is, that in this story the tragic, awful, terrible thing is that there’s pederasty, young boys being preyed upon by homosexual priests. That’s the real tragedy of this story.”
“People covered it up, it’s icky, it’s awful, but that’s not the real tragedy,” she said.
Tom McCarthy will direct the movie and co-write the script with Josh Singer. McCarthy’s involvement was a point in the project’s favor, Nicolosi said She praised him as “a great writer” for his work on the movies “The Station Agent,” “The Visitor” and “Up.”
“This guy is a humane writer and he’s very smart,” she said. “I don’t think you could pick a better writer to do this thing. But I don’t think it has to be done and I think they’re choosing the wrong format.”
Nicolosi believes that the subject matter of the film means it is likely already a top contender for prestigious Hollywood awards like the Academy Award and the Golden Globe.
“This is going to be the kind of project that they’re going to relish,” she said of Hollywood leaders, adding that there are some in Hollywood who would want to make the movie into a film “about the wicked, evil Catholic Church.”
“I am hoping the writer is more humane than that. He is more humane,” she said of McCarthy.
She said the movie will very likely lose money. “Nobody wants this story as entertainment. You’re looking at a very small audience already.”
Nonetheless, Nicolosi said Catholics should give the movie “a fair hearing” and try to hope that the movie adds “something new.”
She said there is “no big mystery” why institutions cover up scandal and abuse. Rather, it is abuse that must be explained.
“What possibly could we as a society learn from why these children were victimized?” she asked. “That, to me, is the question. What happened to people, that they prey on children?”
Nicolosi emphasized the difficulty of the project, saying “you couldn’t have talked me into touching this subject as a writer with at 10-foot pole.”
“It’s going to be a grueling, awful journey into this thing. It’s as far from entertainment as I can imagine.”