During a ceremony in central London tonight, the jury of the 56th BFI London Film Festival presented filmmaker Alex Gibney with the Grierson Documentary Award for his documentary film Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.
In his latest film, the Oscar-winning filmmaker examines how for more than 25 years at St John’s School for the Deaf in St Francis, Wisconsin, the Catholic priest Lawrence C Murphy got away with sexually abusing countless pupils. Despite testimonies from victims and repeated warnings from American archbishops that the priest could be an embarrassment to the church, the Vatican took little action. The emotional and gripping film not only delves in the past, looking back through the eyes of those abused and connected, but also shows evidence that the church very much remains to maintain that same hands-off approach today.
Alex Gibney’s earlier work includes Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (nominated in 2005 for an Academy Award); Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (short-listed in 2011 for an Academy Award) and Taxi to the Dark Side (for which he actually received and Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2007).
During a ceremony at the central London Banqueting House, which was hosted by Sue Perkins, documentary filmmaker Roger Graef, president of the Grierson Trust jury, said: “Mea Maxima Culpa was a life-changing film made with real integrity. The use of deaf men for interviews finally telling their story was both very distinctive and respectful. The journalism showed an extraordinary paper trail of events leading right to the Vatican in an incredibly compelling manner.”
In the 2012 jury Graef was joined by the multi award-winning foreign correspondent and world affairs editor John Simpson; vice chairman of the Grierson Trust Emma Hindley; head of documentary commissioning at the BBC, Charlotte Moore and award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Matthews.
The full list of nominees counted 12 documentaries, including:
Beware of Mr. Baker, Jay Bulger, USA/South Africa
Canned Dreams, Katja Gauriloff, Finland
The Central Park Five, Ken Burns, David McMahon, Sarah Burns, USA
The Ethnographer, Ulises Rosell, Argentina
For No Good Reason, Charlie Paul, UK
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, Shola Lynch, USA/France
Les Invisibles, Sébastien Lifshitz, France
The Summit, Nick Ryan, Ireland/Switzerland
Turned Towards The Sun, Greg Olliver, UK/France/Germany
Village at the End of the World, Sarah Gavron, UK/Denmark/Greenland
West of Memphis, Amy Berg, USA
Watch jury president Graef discuss picking this year’s documentary competition winner:
Watch the trailer for Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary is presented annually in partnership with the Grierson Trust and recognises films with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance.