‘Procession’ Director Robert Greene Says He Wanted Doc On Survivors Of Catholic Priest Sex Abuse To Be “Honestly Useful, Deeply Useful”

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Multiple award-winning documentaries have been made concerning the youngster sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, together with Amy Berg’s Deliver Us From Evil, Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence within the House of God, and Kirby Dick’s Twist of Faith. 

But there’s by no means been a documentary like Robert Greene’s Procession.

The movie, newly-arrived on Netflix, revolves round six males who as boys had been sexually assaulted by clergymen related with the Kansas City Diocese. But in working with the survivors, Greene doesn’t undertake a typical, “Sit down and tell me what happened to you” method.

“I’ve heard hours and hours and hours and hours of the most horrible things that these abusers put my friends—these men who are now my friends—through. Almost none of it is actually in the film,” Greene tells Deadline. “It wasn’t about recounting those stories. It was about what do we do now?”

Director Robert Greene
Courtesy of Matthew Carey

The reply to that query—what will we do now?—was impressed by drama remedy, a way of serving to survivors of trauma work by means of their experiences by means of using role-playing. In live performance with Registered Drama Therapist Monica Phinney and a lawyer who has advocated for scores of victims of sexual abuse by clergymen in Missouri, Greene created a context for the boys to hitch forces to face the nightmarish previous.

“As part of a radically collaborative filmmaking process, [the men] create fictional scenes based on memories, dreams and experiences, meant to explore the church rituals, culture and hierarchies that enabled silence around their abuse,” reads a synopsis of the movie. “…[T]hese men are hoping to work through their own traumas together in this new-found brotherhood, which includes them conquering fears associated with actual places of abuse.”

Greene says, “We wanted the film to be useful to the guys and useful to the viewer. That’s the first and foremost thing. Honestly useful, deeply useful, not just in a casual way, but we wanted it to be therapeutic, frankly. That was the goal. But we also wanted to get way past the headlines. A news story can never quite get to the level of realization… because the facts don’t even approach what happened.”

In one of many scenes created by the boys, survivor Tom Viviano, who was assaulted by a number of clergymen as a toddler, performs a cleric grooming a boy for abuse. Child actor Terrick Trobough was forged to play the child in that scene, in addition to in different eventualities conceived and written by the six survivors.

The survivors, together with Michael Sandridge and Ed Gavagan, might witness the fictionalized eventualities at what is likely to be known as a protected distance, and but challenge themselves into what was being portrayed.

Ed Gavagan, Michael Sandridge and Dan Laurine in 'Procession'

From left: Ed Gavagan, Michael Sandridge and Dan Laurine in ‘Procession’

“Reclaiming that childhood, reclaiming that kid inside of them,” Greene observes. “Ed [Gavagan] says it so clearly in the movie, ‘I can see the boy in my dreams, but I can’t help him because he’s some other kid and I need to figure out how to get to that kid.’”

Greene says cautious precautions had been taken to guard the younger actor.

“We built all these safety checks,” Greene states. “[Terrick] always had parents there or a grandparent, some family member was always with him. The therapists were there to support him. But ultimately the truth is he’s just an incredibly resilient kid.”

Greene says he at all times bore in thoughts the potential for inflicting psychic harm to the six males on the coronary heart of Procession.

“That was… a big concern,” he notes. “You hear [survivor] Joe Eldred say it: ‘Was I concerned about being re-traumatized? Yes. Am I concerned about it? Yes.’ …What we wanted to do was build something that had safe walls and that all those walls had doorways out. So, every step in the process could be tentative. Every step in the process that doubt and that concern and the risk—that could be built into the process. That needed to be. That had to be.”

A Q&A for 'Procession' at the Camden International Film Festival

A Q&A for Procession on the Camden International Film Festival, September 19, 2021
Courtesy of Matthew Carey

Gavagan, who works as a development contractor in New York, participated with Greene in a Q&A for the movie on the Camden International Film Festival in September. Gavagan mentioned his spouse initially “was not a fan of the idea” of him participating in Procession.

“She was trepidatious about what benefit could come of this,” Gavagan instructed the CIFF viewers. “It’s been years now that we worked on this film, and I can tell you that it takes an enormous burden of shame [away], which I have [held] for the last 45 years, and then puts it back where it belongs, thanks to these guys.”

Procession marks Greene’s newest filmmaking endeavor to mix nonfiction with dramatizations. In Kate Plays Christine, the director adopted an actress as she ready to embody an precise individual, information reporter Christine Chubbuck, who killed herself reside on tv in 1974. In Bisbee ’17, Greene forged precise residents of Bisbee, Arizona to reenact a historic outrage from 100 years earlier when a posse of townspeople kidnapped and deported hanging miners.

Those cinematic preoccupations attain their apotheosis in Procession.

“I had done a Q&A for my last film, Bisbee ’17, and someone asked if we had therapists [on set] when we were staging the large-scale recreation of the deportation,” Greene remembers. “My answer was totally inadequate, like, “No, we didn’t really need it.” And my sister-in-law was with me and she or he mentioned, ‘Hey, you should read this book, The Body Keeps The Score, because it’s about how trauma is saved in our physique. You can’t discuss it out, you gotta work it out, in some way. And drama remedy, theatrical type of interventions, is one technique to do it. It’s one doable manner to assist.’ And then I had a Psycho zoom second the place it’s like, ‘This is what I’ve been making an attempt to do my complete profession. And I simply didn’t have a reputation for it.’”

Actor Terrick Trobough (L) and survivor Joe Eldred

Actor Terrick Trobough (L) and survivor Joe Eldred

Procession has constructed momentum in direction of the Oscars by incomes broad recognition, together with an award for social impression from the Heartland International Film Festival, a nomination for Best Documentary Feature from the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award, an enhancing nomination from the IDA Awards, and nominations for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Score from the Cinema Eye Honors. The latter group additionally named the six survivors within the movie—Gavagan, Sandridge, Eldred, Viviano, Dan Laurine and Tom Foreman—winners of its “Unforgettables” award.

For Greene and his collaborators, to be distributed on Netflix represents a few of the finest recognition possible, due to the streamer’s worldwide scale.

“Nothing matters as much as how validating it is for those guys to get this platform because ultimately they did it for themselves, but they would not have done this if there wasn’t a camera [present],” Greene tells Deadline. “When Joe Eldred says in the movie, ‘This was worth it, because it’s going to help the other boys, the other guys who see it,’ he says it very clearly… They’re doing this for the audience. So, the fact that we have this bigger audience is very powerful.”

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