Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Frances McDormand won the Oscar for best actress at the Academy Award ceremony last Sunday night. The film she starred in, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, tells the story of her character’s attempt to get justice following her daughter’s murder in the face of an intransigent local police department. She uses the vacant billboards of the title to promote her cause to great effect.
In 2016 the Oscar for best film went to Spotlight, which told the story of a team of investigative journalists exposing a network of child abuse and cover up in the Boston USA Catholic Diocese. It described the process of uncovering the truth and sharing it with a wider public audience despite significant religious and political opposition.
Whilst Three Billboards also develops into a story about racism, both films were about seeking the truth about what happened. In so doing they aimed to describe the processes of reporting and then bringing about getting something done about situations that had resulted in children being badly hurt, and in Three Billboards’ case, murder. In the space of two years, two high quality award winning films that can relate to our safeguarding agenda of trying to get to the bottom of what may have happened, reducing future risk, providing care and support and importantly, seeking justice for victims. Like the protagonists in the films, safeguarders in our own church can often experience resistance to the process of seeking to shine a light on earlier and indeed current events, and then implementing the measures that the church requires to keep people safe in the future.
This is of course not a coded proposal to name and shame on church notice boards, but it is a reminder that from time to time we need to be fearless in our ambition to find out and take the action we need to effect the changes we need to see. Our stories may not make it Hollywood, but for those who make a difference the red carpet awaits.