It was the hottest ticket in the Town of East Hampton this holiday weekend at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Among huge lines, actor Alec Baldwin and his wife, Hilaria, were some of the first ticket holders through the door to the screening of Spotlight, a gripping new drama starring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup.
The Festival's Centerpiece Film, sponsored by the Australian boot company, Blundstone, is based on a true American story about how the tenacity and commitment of old-school investigative journalists at The Boston Globe shook the world, in the same vein as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as portrayed in All the President's Men.
Spotlight refers to the name of a close-knit team of investigative reporters who reported to Ben Bradlee, Jr. and were permitted to keep the subject of their investigations confidential from the rest of the newsroom. In 2001, these journalists began painstakingly uncovering the decades-long sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in Boston. The same scandal that ended with the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as Archbishop of Boston in 2002. The film, gripping and suspenseful, chronicles the Spotlight team's hunt for more than 80 sex abuse victims and the identities of the dozens of priests involved to bring the allegations out from the shadows in a city seemingly controlled by the Church.
With old-school foot-to-pavement journalistic endeavors, including thousands of man hours spent on clip file reviews, microfiche searches, cross referencing years of church catalogs to find mysterious patterns of priests transferred between parishes, hunting down witnesses and victims, fact-checking and cross-referencing, library visits and utilizing the legal system to unseal sealed documents, the team gets stymied at every step along the way, until finally they acquire overwhelming evidence and are ready to go to print. The way the film transports us through the intensity of the investigation, along with the emotional toll it took on the reporters, is fascinatingly portrayed on the screen.
Director Thomas McCarthy calls this film "a love letter to the importance of investigative journalism on a local level". Indeed, the film is brilliant on two levels: by telling an authentic story about dedicated journalists' hunt for truth and transparency amid a mass cover-up involving victimized children, and running it seamlessly alongside the story of the victimization itself. The Festival audience seemed to agree, with one attendee overheard commenting when the curtain went down, "That's the way film making should be." SpotlightTheFilm.com is scheduled to be released in November, 2015.