There it was again. The cool sting of rejection, like an unexpected slap across the face.
I’d just met with a potential financier for a documentary film I’ve been working on with my sister, and after he viewed the product of our eight months of hard labor, he had brushed it off with a few words.
‘I don’t know how to say this... it’s just not what we’re looking for.’
An edit room never felt so cold. I looked at the hundreds of soundbites on my Final Cut timeline scornfully, for not proving they were worth their salt. And down at my hands, for the same. My sister and I are both from America the land of can do -- in Ireland it’s can’t do it seems--especially where the church is concerned.
The film is about the life and death of an Irish missionary priest who was murdered less than a year ago in Africa. It’s not finished; the purpose of the meeting was to determine whether this representative of a film funding program was interested enough in the story to send me to abroad to investigate the brutal circumstances of the priest’s death.
He added, ‘He does sound like a good man, who did good things, and it is interesting... I just don’t know if anybody who doesn’t support the Catholic church would be interested in seeing it.’
Translation: Nobody in Ireland wants to hear anything positive about the Catholic church nowadays.
Yes, members of the Catholic church have committed horrendous deeds. Yes. Between priests abusing youngsters, their clergy brothers covering it up for decades, and now, the Pope’s rejection of the resignations of two bishops who served when all of this was occurring, for obvious reasons, nobody is a fan of the Catholic church lately. Absolutely understandable.
But not all Catholic priests are child molesters. Nor are they all men involved in corrupt cover-ups. And for the record, to those who oppose the construction of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero, let me assure you, not every Muslim is a terrorist. These are indisputable facts that you can confirm personally by visiting churches and mosques, and then talking with the faithful. If you do, as I have, you’ll find yourself surrounded by worshippers who are heartbroken and disgusted by the heinous criminals who have sullied all that they ever held sacred.
No one and no thing has been either all black or all white since we were introduced to the Crayola 12 pack in elementary school. People, and the institutions they belong to, always come in shades of grey.
‘Maybe if there was just a little less gushing about him. Like 90 percent of what people are saying about him can be cut,’ my movie industry insider explains. ‘And if you ask the people questions about him again, so that there’s more of a cynical take on his life, maybe...’
But, I counter, ‘Even if I interviewed everyone again, I doubt I would get anything but people saying he was a wonderful man. I mean, by all accounts, he was a wonderful man.’
He agreed, but then started shifting uncomfortably in his chair and looking at his watch; he missed the point entirely.
Our documentary isn’t about the Church. It’s about one man, a unique person who dedicated his entire life(not just a few summers) to helping people in a completely impoverished land. He built countless clinics, schools and churches, and cultivated farms for and with people who had nothing – and after 41 years of hard work, he was unexpectedly murdered.
His close friends described him as a man who never wore a new item of clothing in his entire adult life, as a man who never drank alcohol but was always the first one to get the ‘song and dance’ going at parties. I was impressed to hear a radio interview in which this Roman Catholic priest talked about how he was heartened to see more support for gay marriage in recent years.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ‘When were the good and the brave ever in a majority?... Each one who there laid down his life for the poor and oppressed was a picked man, culled out of many thousands, if not millions.’
Doesn’t this one good man, culled of millions, deserve to have his story told– and heard? Doesn’t his brutal death warrant an investigation beyond the paltry one that the local police are willing to give him(they’re calling it armed robbery, even though his attackers tied him and beat him, only to come away with a mobile phone and an undetermined amount of paperwork)?
If we could shed light on this one man’s death, and life, I thought, perhaps we would come away with answers – or at least meaningful questions – about land and tribal conflicts, and political corruption in the country where he was killed.
But apparently these concepts just aren’t salacious enough for modern viewers, or at least weren’t enough to convince my funding representative to finance the completion of our film.
Thus, after my miserable meeting, I almost gave in to the temptation to let my old friend Rejection persuade me to lose faith in the world at large.
It’s always the boy who says he’ll always be there for you that’s never there when you call. It’s always the so-called independent thinkers who end up being as bland as beige when challenged to consider a new idea. And it’s always fools like me who are disappointed for believing in them, time and time again.
In a haze of heartbreak, I called my best friend and begged her to give me perspective.
‘You’re at one of those critical crossroads. The question isn’t whether this one person likes your project. It’s, do you believe in it? I believe in it, and I know you do, too. So you have to choose to either continue to work on this, no matter what they say, or drop the project after all of your work.’
Before we hung up, she added, ‘It’ll all work out. Trust me. You just have to believe.’
Is there any blessing quite as inspiring as true friendship? Hope in life restored.
For now, at the very least.