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Men who were abused by Catholic clergy relive their trauma in Netflix documentary Procession

Six men who were sexually abused by Catholic priests and clergy as children are the subjects of a powerful new documentary that explores drama therapy as a path to healing their trauma.   

Directed by Robert Greene, Procession follows the midwestern survivors as they come together to write, direct, and act out fictional scenes based on their childhood memories, dreams, and experiences. 

‘I’m a New York City contractor. I can chew the balls of a union electrician, but I can’t talk about what happened to me when I’m 13,’ explains one man in the film’s trailer, which was released by Netflix on Tuesday. 

Powerful story: Six survivors of childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy are the subjects of the new documentary Procession 

Healing: The film follows the men as they come together to write, direct, and act out fictional scenes based on their childhood memories, dreams, and experiences as part of drama therapy

Healing: The film follows the men as they come together to write, direct, and act out fictional scenes based on their childhood memories, dreams, and experiences as part of drama therapy

‘I have so much anger and hatred I can’t even put it into words,’ another survivor says of the pain that has been festering for years. 

The preview begins with a few of the survivors returning to the church where they were abused as children.  

‘I don’t think I’ve been inside this church in more than 30 years,’ one man admits, while another adds: ‘Look at the windows. You’d never think something bad might happen here.’ 

As part of the drama therapy-inspired experiment, each of the survivors writes their own script exploring how the culture and hierarchies of the Catholic church enabled their abuse.  

More than 230 priests are known to have been sexually abusive in that area, according to the trailer.  

Facing their fears: The trailer begins with a few of the survivors returning to the church where they were abused as children

Facing their fears: The trailer begins with a few of the survivors returning to the church where they were abused as children

Story: As part of the drama therapy-inspired experiment, each of the survivors writes their own script exploring how the culture and hierarchies of the Catholic church enabled their abuse

Story: As part of the drama therapy-inspired experiment, each of the survivors writes their own script exploring how the culture and hierarchies of the Catholic church enabled their abuse

Making a movie: The goal of drama therapy is to use theatrical techniques such as role-play to bring about meaningful change

Making a movie: The goal of drama therapy is to use theatrical techniques such as role-play to bring about meaningful change

‘The Catholic Church says, “Tell your mother we’re sorry,”‘ one survivor says. ‘You tell my mother you’re sorry ’cause she still believes in you.’ 

The goal of drama therapy is to use theatrical techniques such as role-play to bring about meaningful change. 

‘We’re trying to walk through each other’s memories, and the things that haunt us the most,’ one man explains. 

‘I do have concerns, yes — concerns of being re-traumatized,’ another admits, while someone else says: ‘It’s an opportunity to take back the power of those places over us.’

Procession was acquired by Netflix after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September.  

The documentary is slated for release in select theaters on November 12, and it will debut on the streaming platform on November 19. 

Looking back: 'We're trying to walk through each other's memories, and the things that haunt us the most,' one man explains in the trailer

Looking back: ‘We’re trying to walk through each other’s memories, and the things that haunt us the most,’ one man explains in the trailer 

Candid: 'I'm a New York City contractor. I can chew the balls of a union electrician, but I can't talk about what happened to me when I'm 13,' another survivor shares

Candid: ‘I’m a New York City contractor. I can chew the balls of a union electrician, but I can’t talk about what happened to me when I’m 13,’ another survivor shares 

Release: Procession was acquired by Netflix after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September. It will debut on the streaming platform on November 19

Release: Procession was acquired by Netflix after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September. It will debut on the streaming platform on November 19

‘The filmmaking decisions are all tied into choices to be therapeutic,’ Greene told IndieWire of the creation of the documentary.   

Producer Bennet Elliott, who has been checking in with the survivors and their families over the past four years, added that drama therapy has helped the men. 

‘It is a very emotional thing, because I think that all of the participants in the film, there’s just such a noticeable, tangible difference. Everyone is feeling better because they opted to be a part of the film,’ she said. 

Green opted to share the ‘film by’ credit with the six survivors, as well as other members of the crew, including cinematographer Robert Kolodny.

‘The participants are empowered in front of the camera to believe, and rightfully so, that they are steering the ship. In many ways, [to understand] that they have authorship,’ he told IndieWire.

‘It lends it this exciting feeling on and off set. It really feels like they are as active of collaborators as the producers, as the camera people, as the sound person, we’re all in this together.’


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