Spotlight - Show time with Mitrajit Bhattacharya

The headline of Boston Globe on 6 January 2002 screamed: "Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years." The piece written by the investigative reporter from the paper’s Spotlight team, Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) was massive in impact, opened the floodgates for more Spotlight stories on the same topic to follow. The uproar from the stories was so sustained and impact so huge that by December 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law, the Archbishop of Boston, resigned in disgrace, his statement says, "To all those who have suffered from my shortcomings and mistakes I both apologise and from them beg forgiveness." The Spotlight team won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for their reporting and the movie won the best picture and best original screenplay at the Oscars in 2016. 

Though the movie stars A-listers like Michael Keaton (as editor Walter “Robby” Robinson) and Mark Ruffalo, the real stars of the film are writer/director Tom McCarthy and his co-writer Josh Singer (who also wrote The Post, reviewed earlier in this column). The Spotlight team comprised editor Robinson and reporters Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matty Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James). All reporters are locals, and all have connections with the Catholic Church. 

The story starts when a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) comes on board at Boston Globe, perceived an outsider to the city of Boston and its elite. His entry as the man in command of Boston’s biggest paper sets off a series of investigations, on the trail of degenerate priests with a history of child sex abuse. An interesting interaction on whether to pursue the story between the two men in charge happens when Robby hesitates, but Baron gently pushes: "This strikes me as an essential story for a local paper.

How the Catholic Church launched a cover-up spread over decades of the priests’ heinous acts was a bigger story in the making. By the time Spotlight is done with their story, 80 paedophile priests and over 1000 victims are revealed in Boston alone. 600 more articles follow and the team’s investigation also sets off a chain reaction with similar cases being revealed across the world in countries like England, Argentina and Kenya.

The city flourishes when its great institutions work together,” the cardinal tells the editor in one scene that has two powerful men chatting, holding the fate of thousands in their hands. Marty Baron is not the one to have any of these though; he decides to stand alone, if need be, in order to do justice to its content. Transparency over collusion, challenging authority and old beliefs is the central conflict of this newsroom drama.

McCarthy’s movie is bigger than any award, it’s a glowing tribute to long-form print journalism, now increasingly facing budget cuts in the digital ecosystem, reduced resources and click-bait headline solutions. The movie never loses focus on the plotline, fulfills the responsibility of telling a story that has far reaching impact and staffed with exceptional actors who stay fully committed to the characters they play.


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