Local priest, director happy with Hot Docs win

The pastor at Assumption Parish is happy that a documentary on a former Windsor priest who pleaded guilty to molesting 16 children has won a prestigious award at a Toronto film festival.

Documentary wins top award at film festival

Rev. Maurice Restivo, pastor at Assumption church. (Dale Molnar CBC News)

The pastor at Assumption Parish is happy that a documentary on a former Windsor priest who pleaded guilty to molesting 16 children has won a prestigious award at a Toronto film festival.

Directed by Windsorite Matt Gallagher, Prey was named winner of the $50,000 Rogers Audience Award for best Canadian documentary on Sunday, the final day of Hot Docs, North America's largest documentary festival. 

The film features several southwestern Ontario victims of Rev. William Hodgson "Hod" Marshall, as well as lawyer Rob Talach of London, who has doggedly pursued justice for the victims.

"I think it was an excellent documentary and I was happy to see that it won the award," said Rev. Maurice Restivo. "I know they worked very hard at it. It was very difficult for me to watch and my heart went out to those who are suffering, who are victims of father Hod Marshall and victims of sex abuse of any kind but especially priests."

Gallagher didn't go to the awards ceremony Friday when the film was awarded a $5,000 special jury prize — because he didn't expect to win.

"There was such a slim chance of getting the award, there were so many good films there," said Gallagher.

He was at home in Toronto with his 10-year-old daughter when he got a phone call from the festival.

"For me, the prize is just the icing on the cake. The real sort of reward that I get is getting a chance to actually work in documentary and make these films," said Gallagher.

The film focuses on one perpetrator in particular, Father William Hodgson "Hod" Marshall, a retired priest and teacher. (Prey/Matt Gallagher)

Gallagher, his wife and his daughter were in the audience for the big award.

"We were really excited to receive it," said Gallagher, adding that the money is great but more importantly he feels the audience was sending a message to the church by selecting the film for the award.

"I think the public wants the church to change," said Gallagher.

Restivo believes the church is now  "starting to move in the right direction" toward addressing the problem, and that the Catholic church needs to take responsibility for it.

"At the same time ensuring that actions are taken so that things like that can be minimized or stopped for the future," said Restivo, adding that working with healing the victims is essential. He hopes the documentary will go a long way toward preventing future abuses.

"I think what's important is to take someone out of risk of public harm," said Restivo, who doesn't think allowing priests to marry would make much difference.

"I'm a bit sorry that the Basilian fathers, my religious congregation ... looked like we didn't do the best we could," said Restivo. "But it's also good that all of that is out in the open and I hope that that brings healing to people."

About the Author

Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is an award-winning video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print.


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