'Spotlight' takes home best picture honors at Oscars

From left: Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d’Arcy James star in "Spotlight." (Entertainment One)

From left: Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d’Arcy James star in "Spotlight." (Entertainment One)

by Brian Roewe

NCR environment correspondent

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“Spotlight,” the film that follows The Boston Globe’s investigation into the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church, won best picture at the 88th Academy Awards held on Sunday night.

"This film gave a voice to survivors, and this Oscar amplifies that voice, which we hope will become a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican," producer Michael Sugar said in accepting the Oscar.

"Pope Francis, it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith," he added. 

"We would not be here today without the heroic efforts of our reporters," said Blye Pagon Faust, another "Spotlight" producer. "Not only do they affect global change, but they absolutely show us the necessity for investigative journalism."

In January 2002, the Globe published its first report from its Spotlight investigative team uncovering the sexual abuse scandal in the Boston archdiocese. The stories that followed helped place the issue of clerical sexual abuse of children on the nation's conscience and ultimately beyond U.S. borders. The Globe's reporting added a major metropolitan voice to the work of other smaller publications in uncovering the abuse scandal, including a Boston-area alternative weekly, the Phoenix, and National Catholic Reporter, which published its first story on the abuse crisis in 1985. 

More: "Read NCR's coverage of Oscar-nominated 'Spotlight'" (Feb. 27, 2016)

In taking home best picture, "Spotlight" beat out seven other films, including "The Revenant" -- considered a heavy favorite to grab the award -- and "Mad Max: Fury Road," which led with six Oscar wins on the night.

"Spotlight" was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning the Oscar for best original screenplay in addition to best picture. The film also earned nominations in the best supporting actress (Rachel McAdams), best supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo), best director (Tom McCarthy), and film editing categories.

Before the awards ceremony began, Ruffalo, McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer joined members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in protesting outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.

In a statement released before the award show began, SNAP founder Barbara Blaine said that whichever film won the coveted Oscar statues, it is children who "win" each time someone watches or discusses the film.

"No matter which Hollywood types walk away with those statues tonight, kids are the real winners. They are safer because Spotlight has prompted hundreds of thousands to think, talk and take action about child sex crimes and cover ups, even or especially in trusted institutions," she said.

Reaction to "Spotlight" earning best picture honors was cause for celebration among many journalists -- whether they had reported directly on the church abuse story or in an unrelated area -- as an achievement for investigative journalism and a symbol of the importance of funding such work.


[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is broewe@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]

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