Prey — the new documentary project by Windsor-born filmmaker Matt Gallagher — gives voice to those who were subject to the abuses of disgraced priest William Hodgson Marshall.
The Sudbury Star [The same article appears in The Windsor Star]
Published on: March 22, 2019 | Last Updated: March 22, 2019 11:19 PM EDT
“I grew up Catholic in Windsor. I was an altar boy at a church in the east end,” recalls filmmaker Matt Gallagher.
“I was a grown man when these things about certain priests started coming out … I haven’t considered myself a Catholic since I was 18 years old. But this film was still very difficult to do.”
“It’s stories of abuse, told by men, kept secret for so long.”
Set for a world premiere next month, Gallagher’s latest documentary project — a TVO production entitled Prey — gets particularly close with one of Marshall’s victims, Rod MacLeod, and his search for justice.
MacLeod was a student at an all-boys high school in Sudbury in the 1960s when he first became subject to Marshall’s attention at the age of 13.
The abuse went on for four years.
The film’s central narrative is MacLeod’s modern-day lawsuit against the Basilian Fathers of Toronto, the Catholic order that moved Marshall from community to community despite knowledge of his predations.
Shot over the course of the spring and summer of 2018, the documentary follows the civil proceedings. Now 69 years old, MacLeod was represented by London lawyer Rob Talach.
“They call (Talach) ‘The Priest Hunter,’” Gallagher explains. “He’s filed 395 lawsuits against the Catholic church.”
“Rod MacLeod refused to settle. He turned down all the offers the church threw at him, because he wanted to have a public trial. He wanted people to hear this story.”
Marshall died in 2014 at the age of 92. But the man who some students secretly called “Happy Hands” still makes a haunting appearance in the film — in the form of a video deposition that was previously sealed evidence.
“We had access to a 90-minute video of this priest confessing to four decades of crime,” Gallagher says. “It has never been seen before.”
Recorded in 2012, the deposition video shows a fixed shot of Marshall’s withered face as he struggles to answer Talach’s questions.
“You knew, in those days, sir, that it was a criminal offence, correct?” Talach demands.
“I imagine so,” Marshall replies.
“You knew it was wrong?”
“Yes,” Marshall replies, weakly.
Gallagher says the Catholic church also has a voice in the film through a spokesman for the Basilian Fathers, Fr. David Katulski.
“That’s one of the most interesting things,” Gallagher says. “His job is to handle all these cases of abuse by priests. Father Katulski is an honourable man, but his job is to deal with victims, over and over and over.”
“He basically has the worst job in the Catholic church.”
Although MacLeod is the focus of the documentary, Gallagher also turned his lens on other survivors — such as Windsor resident Patrick McMahon, who came forward with the first criminal complaint against Marshall.
“Patrick has been doing these one-man protests around the city of Windsor,” Gallagher explains. “One weekend, during the summer, the bishop was supposed to make an announcement in a letter to be read at all the churches in the diocese.”
“I followed Patrick with my camera as he went to these churches and silently stood outside them with his signs. Most everyone ignored him.”
Gallagher says McMahon is also responsible for the title of the documentary — a play on the words ‘pray’ and ‘prey.’
MacLeod’s lawsuit was decided last April 26, and the film’s world premiere in Toronto next month will be exactly one year later.
Despite the dark nature of the documentary’s subject matter, Gallagher feels there’s also a good deal of hope to be found in it — the bringing of truth to light.
“These are things that, in some cases, have been kept buried for 50-plus years,” Gallagher said. “It was very difficult for these men to tell these stories. But I think they’re doing the right thing.”
Prey premieres at the 2019 Hot Docs Festival in Toronto on April 26, with repeat screenings April 27 and May 2.
The film will be broadcast on TVOntario this fall.
Visit www.bordercitypicturesinc.com for more information.
Most civil, clergy sex abuse cases are settled quietly, out-of-court and far from public view. But PREY follows one survivor and his lawyer as they pursue justice through a public trial in the hopes of forcing the dark and hidden story of clergy sexual abuse to light. A local story with global resonance.
Rod MacLeod, the plaintiff in the case, was abused for years as a boy 50 years ago at the hands of a Catholic priest. Rod is represented by Rob Talach, a civil lawyer who has filed 395 suits against the church, earning him the nickname “The Priest Hunter”.
The defendants are The Basilians of Toronto. Attending trial as their representative was Father David Katulski, the public face of the Catholic religious order. The abuser, Father Hod Marshall, makes his presence known at the civil trial in the form of a haunting video deposition taken before his death. The video had been sealed from public view until now.
This trial was not about guilt or innocence, but about how much money the church should pay in compensation for the devastating fallout from the abuse. More importantly for Rod, it was about exposing the truth of how and why the sexual abuse of children could go on for so long without the church stopping it.
PREY documents the courtroom drama and delves into the personal stories of many of those present. The documentary’s world premiere at Hot Docs on April 26 falls, to the day, on the one-year anniversary of the gripping conclusion of Rod’s trial.
A feature documentary by MATT GALLAGHER
Produced by CORNELIA PRINCIPE, Edited & Co-Produced by NICK HECTOR cce,
Music by JUSTIN SMALL & OHAD BENCHETRIT, Animation by IVETA KARPATHYOVA,
Additional Camera by SASHA JORDAN APPLER, Executive Producer TVO JANE JANKOVIC.
Produced by Border City Pictures in Association with TVO,
Knowledge Network, with the Participation of the Canada Media Fund,
The Rogers Documentary Fund and with the Assistance of
The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, Ontario Creates Tax Credit Program.
Friday, April 26th 9pm TIFF Lightbox 2
Repeat Screenings on:
Saturday, April 27th at 1 pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Thursday, May 2 at 1:30 pm at the TIFF Lightbox 1