The importance of Spotlight: Press conference with Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Tom McCarthy, Walter Robinson and Mike Rezendes
Ahead of Spotlight’s release on 29th January, The Upcoming caught up with the cast, crew and real-life heroes behind the tale, to talk about the film’s significance at the UK press conference.
Spotlight is definitely one of the more important releases out this awards season, telling the true story of a Pulitzer Prize-winning feat of investigative journalism by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team that exposed the systemic sexual abuse of children by a staggering number of catholic priests in the Boston area. In 2002, when the story broke, it sent shockwaves around the world and changed completely the role of the catholic church in New England. Tom McCarthy’s movie revisits the tale and brings it to a wider audience – and the cast voiced their hopes that those changes could continue.
Mark Ruffalo, who plays Boston Globe’s writer Mike Rezendes in the film, explained: “There’s a space open for this to really resonate in the world and it’s in those moments where film is used as a tool to teach… it really doesn’t happen that often in filmmaking where you can influence the conversation.” Michael Keaton, who plays Walter “Robbie” Robinson – the Spotlight Team editor – also pointed out the film’s success would open the door to other, similar projects, for people to make movies “about something”. Hopefully this holds true, all too often subjects such as child abuse are tackled by overly dramatic “made-for-TV” style productions that are rarely taken seriously.
The film’s subject matter, too, though dark and uncomfortable, is still painfully relevant; one need only glance at a newspaper to find some new story about adults in positions of power abusing children, it is no longer only the Catholic Church under scrutiny. Michael Keaton explained: “This movie is really not about religion so much as it is about institutions. You know, it’s about people who take power and seize power and use their power to take advantage of the powerless and it happens in a lot of places. It happens right now with the UN Peacekeepers who are taking advantage of kids… for me that’s the bigger picture. That’s what the movie’s about.”
Walter Robinson also pointed out another of the movie’s messages: “The movie really underscores the importance of investigative reporting and holding public officials and powerful figures accountable for their actions,” and in a world where news is increasingly dominated by the latest celebrity gossip, it’s an important one. Robinson called attention to the fact that although investigative teams have suffered most from cutbacks, when readers were surveyed about what they’d like to see from their news providers, investigative journalism is always a top priority.
Ruffalo, known for his pro-human-rights and environmental activism, spoke about how important journalism was in affecting social change too, especially in regards to Mike’s continuing work: “With two or three articles he literally changed the state’s legislation on a certain issue where people were being hurt…I can’t think of any other movement that can affect that much change in such a short period of time.” It’s a point that the movie hammers home time and time again: where the law may be bound and corrupt the press is freer and far accessible; it’s a point that hopefully people will take to heart with Keaton saying that he wishes the film inspired the next generation of journalists.
Without the tireless efforts of the Spotlight Team it’s doubtful the true extent of the abuse in Boston would have come to light and without investigative journalism it’s impossible to know just how much corruption and abuse would have slipped by unseen. Spotlight highlights that and with the rich and powerful finding more and more laws and legislation to hide behind teams like the Boston Globe’s investigative division are more important than ever. Mike Rezendes summed it up perfectly: “Investigative journalism important to democracy…and it will survive and thrive and, seriously, god help us if it doesn’t.”
Video: Filippo L’Astorina
Watch the full press conference of Spotlight here: