Magdalene Sisters praised by critics, but hated by church

Preview by Jack Foley

 

 

A CONTROVERSIAL film, which has been attacked by the Catholic Church for allegedly painting a false picture of real events, has won the critics’ prize at the recent Toronto Film Festival, fuelling the debate surrounding it.

The Magdalene Sisters, directed by Scot Peter Mullan, chronicles the abuse suffered by young girls in Irish Catholic Church-run asylums that took place during the 1960s and took the Toronto Discovery Award for first or second-time directors.

It was voted for by over 750 journalists and, according to distributors, Miramax, is designed to highlight the issue of the treatment of young women throughout that era.

But the movie, which also took the Golden Lion award at the recent Venice Film Festival, has invoked the wrath of Catholic hierarchy, who have launched several scathing attacks on its content.

The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, described The Magdalene Sisters as an ‘angry and rancorous provocation’, while Vatican Radio dismissed it as ‘clearly false’ and accused the makers of likening the Catholic Church to the Taliban.

It added: "Awarding top honours to Magdalene was the most offensive and pathetic page written by the jury."

Critics who praised the film were also in the firing line, with the radio station accusing them of forming ‘a coalition’ and putting their act together ‘to hype up a clearly false movie’.

Director Mullan, who first shot to fame in Ken Loach’s My Name Is Joe, remains unrepentant, however, describing the events depicted on-screen as ‘one of the great injustices of the second half of the 20th Century’.

Claiming he was not imaginative enough himself to dream up such scandals, he went on to suggest that the Catholic Church should face up to its past and the cruelty dished out by Irish nuns.

He maintains that it is widely documented that women were admitted for reasons such as being orphans or for having children out of wedlock, and says the idea of making the film came to him after he watched a documentary on women who were subjected to physical and mental abuse but still managed to offer some resistance.

He maintains he is disappointed by the church’s comments on the film and feels it should, at the very least, have the courage to own up to the fact that such events did go on.

Audiences can see the film at this year's Regus London Film Festival, which opens in November...

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