Deliver us from Evil
This is the incredibly disturbing story of Father Oliver O'Grady, a Catholic priest who used his position as a respected pillar of the community to molest dozens of children (girls and boys) for nearly two decades from the late 1970's to the early 1990's. Several of these incidents were reported to the Church when they occured, but prominent officials merely advised O'Grady to stop and shuffled him around from parish to parish to shield him (and themselves) from backlash. O'Grady was eventually convicted on several counts of child molestation and served time in prison before being released and deported to his native Ireland.
The film was shot in 2005 and intercuts interviews with O'Grady himself, with details of his abuse by his victims. It also includes video-taped depositions of Catholic clergy members who never admitted they had previous knowledge of O'Grady's predilections.
The film is at times a chilling window into the mind of a pedophile, who talks openly about his attraction to children and his desire to be 'close' to them. He is frank and honest about his crimes and seems to understand that they were technically wrong, but he comes to terms with his actions far too easily. He has no conception of the horrific nature of his behaviour and the irrevocable damage he has caused.
At other times it's a condemnation of the clergy as an institution and their disregard for the safety of their most vulnerable parishioners. They allegedly struck a deal with Father O'Grady before he was due to testify, offering him money in exchange for his silence regarding their role in his offenses. Many prominent figures are portrayed as calculating and cold, concerned only for the reputation of the church.
Finally it is a heartbreakingly realistic portrayal of the devastation of sexual abuse; the continued torment of those who have suffered through it and the anguish of their loved ones. Particularly horrific is the story of the Jyono family, who befriended O'Grady in the late 70's and welcomed him into their home for nearly 20 years. It wasn't until the story finally broke in the media, and O'Grady faced prosecution, that their daughter Anne admitted she had been repeatedly molested. Her father Bob's visible heartbreak, anger and sense of betrayal is powerful enough to bring anyone to the verge of tears.
Capturing the Freidmans
This film is about the bizarre case of Arnold and Jessee Friedman a father and son who were convicted of sexually assaulting dozens of children in Rhode Island in the 1980's.
Arnold first came under suspicion when a piece of child pornography he had shipped to himself was intercepted by Federal agents. They searched his house, discovered a stash of similar material and began to suspect him of more serious crimes. They found a class list for piano lessons that he taught in his house and started to round up the students and interrogate them. Arnold and his 18 year old son Jesse were arrested and charged with molesting numerous children in a brutal manner. After maintaining their innocence, they eventually plead guilty.
The movie is directed by Andrew Jarecki who was initially intending to make a film about children's entertainers in New York. While interviewing famous birthday clown Silly Billy (aka David Friedman), he uncovered his tragic family past and managed to secure home video that David had taken as his family was unravelling under the strain of the charges.
What is intriguing about this film is the bizarre nature of the Friedman case. There are so many inconsistencies and strange facts that it's difficult to believe in their guilt. No instances of abuse were ever reported until the police started digging after the pornography discovery. Nearly all of the children had no memory of being abused and only recalled incidents after being hypnotized in the presence of a shrink. There is one anonymous victim who describes what he remembered during hypnosis, sounding calm and oddly level-headed...nothing like the tortured victims in Deliver Us From Evil. The nature of the abuse is so heinous and brutal (they were accused of playing games like 'bare-bottom leapfrogging' and I'll leave that to your imagination!) and yet there was never any physical evidence. Not to mention that the majority of these children, having supposedly suffered this abuse, continued to sign up for new sessions of computer classes.
Arnold Friedman died in prison, but Jesse is still incarcerated and firmly maintains that they only plead guilty to avoid harsher sentencing. Apparently Jarecki was convinced of their innocence and even helped Jesse fund his appeal. But after watching audience reaction to the film at Sundance he realized the film was more ambiguous. While promoting the film he used that to his advantage, maintaining that their guilt or innocence was a mystery.
There is some speculation that the case, which occurred during the 1980's, was the result of rising social hysteria surrounding child abuse. One member of the computer class, who insisted he wasn't molested, found the accusations bizarre. Parents who felt their child was victimized would go around the neighborhood convincing other parents to probe their children further b/c something MUST have happened to them.
So could the entire case be a crazy invention of a hysterical society. There is little doubt that Arnold Palmer had pedophile tendencies and collected pornography, but did that cause people to panic and railroad him?
It's an incredibly compelling film that engages and infuriates because we don't get the answers we crave. But, as evidenced by my rambling here, it leaves a strong impression that will keep you talking!