As I started watching Spotlight, I could not help but think of India and its current state of journalism. It is a real story and a pretty recent one at that. So, more I watched it, more frustrated I felt at the situation back home. Anyways, let us first get back to the basics of the film.
Spotlights is about the investigative division called “spotlight” within the Boston Globe newspaper. As a new editor (Liev Schreiber) takes over, he looks for something big to focus on. He comes across some reports about child abuse in some local churches by the priests. He urges the spotlight team to look deeper into it and despite initial inhibitions they take it up as a serious project. Further investigations suggest that such incidents are not random but almost systematic and happen fairly regularly across the country. Moreover, the institutional heads of the church were not really eager to come clean and risk their own reputation.
It was as difficult a task as they could have picked as most of the powerful social and administrative entities would rather brush it under the carpet due to the sheer inconvenience and embarrassment it caused to the entire establishment because none of them can exactly detach themselves from organized religion. What follows next is some intricate and passionate example of investigative journalism displayed by all the members of the team. They bump into roadblocks, finds way outs, pushes their own limits and jeopardizes their personal lives. But eventually they unearths a scandal that shakes the world and wins a Pulitzer from them.
Much of spotlights success can be attributed to the writing of Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy who does not go overboard at any moment despite the sensational topic at hand and handles this story of journalists with the same professionalism shown by those journos themselves. However, it is not surprising as McCarthy, who is also the director, has already proven himself capable of analyzing humane issues and characters with respect and dignity instead of overt emotions and sensationalism. Those who have not seen it yet, should try out his first film Station Agent starring Peter Dinklage much before he became a Lannister. Spotlight is also elevated by ts excellent ensemble cast. Apart from Schreiber, we have Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James forming the core. Ruffalo has been getting most of the accolades but make no mistake, it is an excellent teamwork that makes it a delightful watch.
What is important here in the Indian context is the nature and quality of journalism. The viewers need to remember that it is a real story and such people really exist. This is not to say that this country does not have passionate journalists but as of now the public perception of them is at an all time low. We did have some exemplary work in the last, when some of them stood up against the establishment during emergency or when they unearthed the Bofors scam back in the 80s. But of late, especially after the advent of commercial news channels and internet, mindless sensationalism, lust for 15 mins of fame, and propaganda has become the order of the day. In that sense, Spotlight should serve as a reminder of how a real journalist should act.