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BERG, AMY - DELIVER US FROM EVIL

SINS OF THE FATHER
The Catholic church has described it as an ‘anti-Catholic hit piece’ but Deliver Us From Evil documents attempts at a cover up and has helped the survivors of defrocked paedophile priest Oliver O’Grady, as filmmaker Amy Berg explains to Louise Keller.


What was it about Oliver O'Grady that prompted you to make the film?
There are very few paedophile priests that have agreed to be interviewed. I don't actually know of any convicted paedophiles that have come forward. I was very interested in knowing how this crime was handled from inside the church as the documents indicated a cover up.

What were the circumstances of your first meeting with O'Grady and how did he strike you?
The first time I met O'Grady he had come to Dublin to meet me from Thurles. He was a bit tentative about meeting but when we met he was polite, charming and exactly as he looks now. Had I met him under different circumstances I would not have believed he was a paedophile.

Why do you think he agreed to talk to you?
I think he agreed to talk to me because he was accustomed to the idea of confessing his sins and gaining "absolution." This practice in the church is customary as a result of what we now know as "bishop - priest" privilege so he never really had any serious sanctions from his confessions. Similarly, he says he wanted to apologize to his victims in his way and I think he thought this was his way.

What makes the story especially potent is the inclusion of some of the victims of abuse in the film. Were there many victims that you approached who were not willing to talk about their experiences? And how did you select those used in the film (Ann Marie Jyono, Nancy Sloan, Adam)
There were many others I spoke with and they served as research for the film. I chose the people in the film based on their willingness to participate. It was very fortunate that the participants represented the beginning and end of his career as a priest because it made the timeline more comprehensive as it was a very difficult story to tell with all the transfers. Many of the survivors did not want to be identified in their adult lives as they have done much work to get through and past this.

Before he was interviewed on camera, did you have any idea of the kind of passion that Ann Marie Jyono's father would show? I compared his recollections when his 'whole world collapsed' after he discovered the rape of his 5 year old daughter, to be like having open heart surgery.

Wow, good comparison. He was raw, angry and loving from the moment I met him. He was the most powerful and exposed person I have met and his story was so important to tell.

In the time it took to make the film and shoot the interviews, was there an obvious catharsis for the victims? Was their inclusion in the film a positive thing for them and how did they show it?

I think it was very therapeutic from what they have told me. They have participated in the Q&As and come to screenings and have forged positive change within the community of clergy abuse survivors so they see the good they have done. Ann Jyono's honesty has helped many people to come out and she has begun therapy as a result of dealing with this story.

The most positive thing I have heard is when Bob Jyono told me that after participating in the film, his daughter is no longer a victim, she is a survivor.

The facts about the widespread existence of paedophilia in the Catholic Church are disturbing, but its cover-up is even more devastating. Were you aware of the extent of the cover up before making the film? As a non-Catholic, did you find it easier to research the topic from the outside?
I imagined that Oliver O'Grady was only the tip of the iceberg but his story shows the extensive lengths the church went to hide the problem. I think we still have not heard the end of it. I did find it easier as a non-Catholic as I did not have the years of influence religion has on perspective and found this an easier way to tell the story.

You use footage that had not been seen before, from the deposition of Cardinal Roger Mahony and his former second-in-command Monsignor Cain. Was there any action by the church to try to stop you from using the footage? Was it difficult to acquire?
All of the depositions were public record and the church did not try to stop me from using the footage. They did see the film before it was released. It was difficult to acquire as it was in storage but I was able to obtain it from attorneys.

Has there been any response to the film from the Church and/or from O'Grady. What has been the response in Ireland?
The church said its an anti-Catholic hit piece. I reckon this is their way of trying to make sure their devoted following does not watch the film. O'Grady has refused to give me his address to send the film. The Irish seemed to appreciate the film and the response in Ireland was much the same as it is everywhere else.

You have a reputation for addressing hard-hitting topics such as sexual assault, women in prison, battered women, poverty, illegal drugs etc. What drives you?

Hard hitting meaning DEPRESSING? I do not know why but I have always been a fan of the underdog and tried to help to get information out there that can possibly forge change. I find myself drawn to these subjects. I hope that through expressing pain people will feel better about themselves and move forward. I ultimately hope we can accept the past, move forward positively and stop the cycle of victimization.

What is your next project?
This Is Not America is my next project. It is a dramatic feature based on a true story about the Americanization of Alaska. It is not that dissimilar to the stories I have heard of the Aboriginals in Australia. A very important story about trying to change others for our own gain and what comes of this.

Published May 17, 2007
 

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Amy Berg

REVIEW

DELIVER US FROM EVIL, directed by Amy Berg
Documentary about Oliver O’Grady, a dangerously active paedophile who moved from one parish to another in Northern California during the 1970s, despite the fact the Church hierarchy was aware of his habits. He quickly won each congregation’s trust and respect wherever he went and countless children were abused during this time. Now, after a 7 year prison sentence, O’Grady lives free in Ireland.
Australian release: May 17, 2007







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