Mea Maxima Culpa is shortlisted for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary. Alex Gibney previously won with Taxi To The Dark Side.

Public revulsion over the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is already so widespread that a film-maker bold enough to retell this tragedy had better be purposeful about it – and Alex Gibney (Taxi To The Dark Side) definitely is that.

Mea Maxima Culpa is a fire-breathing set of theses nailed on the Vatican’s door. Gibney structures the film with care, beginning with the depredations of Father Lawrence Murphy at St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. The priest abused the men in the film when they were schoolboys, favouring with horrendous cunning the ones whose parents couldn’t speak to their sons in sign language. As the boys grew into men they began to communicate with one another, and eventually became some of the first to go public, in the 1970s, with accusations against a priest.

From this group Gibney spirals outward, to those who tried – and failed – to get Murphy away from the school, to the higher-ups who protected the church’s image but not the victims, and finally to the Vatican itself. In the end, decades of such crimes going undetected speaks for itself. And the extraordinary perseverance and courage of the men from St John’s speaks louder still.

Farran Smith Nehme, New York Post

In cinemas and available online at from 22nd of February.