Knight at the Movies ARCHIVES
Two winners: a complex cinema jigsaw puzzle with an international cast and a riveting documentary on clergy abuse
“The center isn’t holding very well,” Joan Didion famously wrote in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” her collection of essays about the
turbulent 1960s in America.  That phrase has never been more apt and applies not only to the American psyche but the fragile state
of the world itself.  One wrong decision can have enormous consequences.  This is the theme of director Alejandro González
Iñárritu's globe spanning
Babel.  Complex and deeply emotional, it’s a stunning drama that while focusing on cultural
misunderstandings also illuminates the sameness of humanity – the banal cliché, in many ways we’re all alike more than we are
unalike.  Though the two themes coexist uneasily – and take a long time to make themselves apparent – Babel manages the
balancing trick in what is a beautifully realized drama that is one of this year’s best.

Due to the jigsaw intricacies of the plot of Babel it’s not easy to sum up without revealing too much.  So I’ll let a slice of the official
synopsis suffice: “In the remote sands of the Moroccan desert, a rifle shot rings out – detonating a chain of events that will link an
American tourist couple's frantic struggle to survive, two Moroccan boys involved in an accidental crime, a nanny illegally crossing into
Mexico with two American children and a Japanese teen rebel whose father is sought by the police in Tokyo.”  The characters involved
in the movie’s four separate stories (which eventually link) each make choices that at the time seem the most sensible but have
terrible consequences.  From the moment the rifle is revealed in the opening, an increasing tension and dread builds and it soon
becomes clear that the American way is not necessarily the way of the rest of the world and what we take for granted Over Here ain’t
a given Over There.  Violence can erupt at any time.  Something as simple as a language barrier can lead to tragedy – or salvation.

The American tourists on vacation are played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett who are trying to overcome a previous personal
heartbreak just as another is in the offing.  Pitt does well with the part of an anguished husband just trying to take charge as
circumstances threaten to spin out of control.  Blanchett, as always, is miraculous in what is essentially a supporting part as is Gael
García Bernal who is also memorable in a supporting part.  But it is the lesser known actors who take center stage and prove to be
unforgettable – Said Tarchani and Boubker Ait El Caid as the two Moroccan boys and Rinko Kikuchi, the mixed-up deaf Japanese girl
and Kuji Yakusho as her father.  Going to the head of the acting class, however is Adriana Barazza as Amelia the Mexican nanny
whose story is heartbreaking.

The complicated movie, aided greatly by its eye opening locations and moving score by
Gustavo Santaolalla (he won the Oscar last
year for
Brokeback Mountain), is the second in González Iñárritu’s trilogy of films focused on death (21 Grams was the first) and that
certainly is yet another theme here.  More telling is the dedication that comes at the end credits to the director’s three children.  This
potent cautionary tale, apparently, is also meant as a warning to future generations to try to get along.


The embarrassment of cinema riches continues with Amy Berg’s riveting documentary,
Deliver Us From Evil.  The movie follows
the career of the defrocked Father Oliver “Ollie” O’Grady, a pixie-like, gentle, quintessential Irish priest who moved from one parish
to another in northern California during the 1970s.  At each new parish “Ollie” quickly won the admiration and trust of his flock but
unbeknownst to them, they were also harboring a pedophile who was busy at his true calling – raping their kids.  Ollie went on for
over 30 years until caught, convicted for seven years, and deported to Ireland.  Each step of the way the church protected him and
stonewalled his victims (they’re still at it).

As horrible as any tale of child molestation is, Berg has done something that intensifies the repellant subject: she got Ollie to agree
to a series of interviews.  Not only does he agree, he gleefully recounts his history of abuse and has the audacity to invite “those I’
ve offended” to fly over to Ireland (presumably on their own dime) so he can apologize to them for things that “should not have
happened.”  Both the Church and Ollie use gentle terms for what he did to reportedly hundreds of kids (including a nine-month old
baby).  He was “inappropriate,” “went a little too far,” was a little “too affectionate.”  At one point Berg, who didn’t coach Ollie, films
him as he gazes fondly at a playground filled with children.  A moment later he coyly confesses that these kids didn’t turn him on –
because they weren’t undressed.  At that moment this sweet, kindly gentleman reveals himself as a monster, one without any real
understanding of the havoc he has wreaked.

That havoc is ongoing (a lot is never reported) and the Catholic Church has yet to officially apologize or adopt a no tolerance policy
on pedophilia.  Instead, they’ve chosen to kill two birds with one stone to deal with the problem: by rooting out homosexual priests,
they theorize, they will get rid of the homos and the abusers in one fell swoop.  Never mind that 95% of pedophiles are straight men
and that this policy doesn’t begin to address the problem of an institution that forces an unnatural vow of chastity on both its men
and women.  As for O’Grady’s case, throughout the film Church officials (via excerpts from filmed depositions) deny any knowledge
that they knew what he was up to – though evidence points to the contrary.

The movie also intersperses the expected testimony from several of Berg’s victims and their family members.  The parent’s of one
young woman, close friends of Ollie at the time, are particularly compelling.  “This has ruined our family” a helpless father says in
one of the movie’s most anguished moments before bursting into tears and ranting that Ollie didn’t abuse he raped.  As Berg’s
engrossing film makes clear, long after the physical rape is over the mental one goes on.
An embarrassment of Cinematic Riches:
Babel-Deliver Us From Evil
11-1-06 Windy City Times Knight at the Movies Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.