Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #2

Re: The Magdalene Sisters Controversy (2003)

You wrote, “It’s a tragedy that the enormity of what went wrong at the Magdalene asylums has been trivialized by cheap manipulation.” I disagree. No healing happens in a society without truth. The director’s responsibility was to open the discussion. The fact that we are writing and talking about it means that we can begin to care for this wound.

Thanks for writing. Whether or not you disagree with me, I’m not entirely sure I disagree with you, at least completely.

I am willing to grant that some good may be accomplished by The Magdalene Sisters. I agree that where abuse has occurred it is important to talk about it, and said as much in my review.

At the same time, just because a subject is worth talking about, it doesn’t follow that any film whatsoever that raises that subject is automatically good, or that it does all the good it could or should have done, or even that it does more good than harm.

I sometimes hear this line of defense from advocates of Michael Moore (“At least he’s getting people talking about it”) and even the likes of The Da Vinci Code, but I find this profoundly unconvincing. A filmmaker’s responsibility does not begin and end with “getting people talking about it.”

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