Variations of the phrase “taking back the power” comes up a lot in Robert Greene’s “Procession.” None of the six midwestern men in the absolutely gut-wrenching documentary are depicted as victims per se, but they are still reeling from what they managed to survive during their childhoods – sexual abuse by various Catholic priests.
For many of them, this is their first time talking about what they went through, let alone facing it. One still has never had a romantic relationship, others still experience nightmares, and all reveal how the church and some of their own families enabled the predators in their midst. As of the doc’s ending, some of them are still waiting for justice, but others never received it at all.
Yet for all that, “Procession” couldn’t exactly be referred to as grim by any definition, even if it refuses to exploit or shove aside some truly grisly details and harsh truths many survivors live with. The film’s focus is on healing and well-being, as all the men have gathered for a radical experiment in art-based therapy, wherein they create a series of short films inspired by their experiences in the Catholic Church.
Heavy? Oh yes, and it’s a given that anyone who chooses to watch must prepare themselves accordingly. But it is also one of the most essential films I’ve ever seen, one that centers survivors and looks from within trauma rather than without. And it’s one of the only films that allows those survivors to determine the narrative rather than simply chronicling and editing their story. All of them are given not only empathy, but flaws as they find strength and connection in each other to not only face what happened to them, but ultimately find a kind of peace, even if, for some, direct confrontation remains forever out of reach.