A Priest in the Family: A Topical, Australian Take

On Thursday last week in Geneva, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child interrogated a delegation from the Holy See about the scope of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests through recent decades, and about the Vatican’s response to the global scandal of such abuse and its repercussions. Also last week Sydney-based filmmaker Peter Humble was hard at work editing the short film A Priest in the Family, based on the short story of the same name by acclaimed Irish writer Colm Tóibín. Though different in setting and emphasis, the story and the film can both be described as resolute if quietly sympathetic studies of Molly, a mother forced to confront news of alleged child abuse by her son Frank, who is a parish priest in her small town community. The film, of course, emphasises the increasing urgency of open conversation about the personal and endemic effects of clerical sexual abuse of children. Peter wrote the screenplay, and co-directed with Anni Finsterer; filming took place in October last year in the Victorian town of Portland (you can read more about the filming here).

A Priest in the Family received the blessing, so to speak, of one Catholic diocese in Australia: some months after the international crowdfunding campaign had closed, a significant donation was made by the diocese of Broken Bay. Surprisingly, given the dramatic vigour and poise of Tóibín’s writing, A Priest in the Family appears to be the first short film project based on his work. Supported by the Irish Film Board and BBC Films, an adaptation of Tóibín’s 2009 novel Brooklyn will be filmed for the big screen in Ireland later in 2014.