Review: Deliver Us From Evil (2006, Amy Berg)

Deliver Us From Evil cuts together footage from videotaped depositions by priests, cardinals and other church staff, parents, written testimonies and histories and grown-up victims of both genders describing the abuse suffered as children and the lengths to which the Catholic Church went in order to keep it covered up. It concentrates on one particular paedophile, Oliver O’Grady who abused dozens of children over almost 20 years as he was moved across the state of California by various church authorities.

The second half of the documentary illustrates the way that the church at first attempted to continue the cover-up, then concentrates on the first family of victims to be introduced and their grown-up daughter as they travel to Rome in attempt to hand deliver a letter to the Pope.

As with Jimmy Breslin’s book, the crisis of faith caused to victims and their relatives is also well documented. The film ends with a montage of shots regarding what happened after filming was complete. The documentary is powerful and thought-provoking even if your abuse didn’t happen in a religious environment. It certainly deserved its Oscar nomination.

Sadly, the only flaw with the documentary is giving the last word to the paedophile involved before the end montage; considering this person was frankly, far too chipper and genial given his crimes, it makes him far too sympathetic, though you are left in no doubt that he was simply allowed to carry on offending until his eventual imprisonment and deportation back to Ireland. We watched the film on its British digital network premiere. Hopefully on the official DVD, O’Grady’s final word is given its own chapter that you can skip.

Whilst an irritant to survivors, those who have not been abused can certainly see one offender commenting on his crimes in the same tone as talking about the weather, and see the banality of evil made real. If they actually live in Ireland, they can also check if anyone is bothering to monitor O’Grady properly three years on from the making of the film.

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– CBG.

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