Thursday, October 28, 2010

Director Wenders considers film on priest abuse

German director Wim Wenders is considering turning the Roman Catholic church's child sex abuse scandal into film, so shocked is he by a cover-up he says starts with the Pope.

Wenders, the award-winning maker of hits such as "Paris, Texas" (1984) and Cuban musical tribute "Buena Vista Social Club" (1999), blames compatriot Benedict XVI for not breaking a "vicious circle" of silence on the scandal.

"The church as a whole, starting with the pope, is still inclined to hide things," Wenders said of the pedophile scandals rocking the church.

"The churches have for too long insisted that it's better not to talk," he told AFP in an interview. "But violators deserve to get hurt."

The president of the European Film Academy for the past 10 years, Wenders lies behind a campaign on German television over the past month aimed at convincing victims of pedophile priests and other aggressors to speak out.

In Brussels, where he launched on Wednesday a European Union-backed bid to put European film studies on school curriculums, Wenders said the Catholic Church "must not be protected for any reason.

The Vatican's interest, he added, lies "only in protecting the violators."

Wenders spent the first 20 years of his life as a Catholic, but violently rejected the doctrine in adult life before rediscovering his spirituality as a Presbyterian.

The Belgian Catholic Church is embroiled in arguably the worst of a worldwide string of church abuse scandals that has also engulfed Germany and the United States, with Belgium still reeling from recent revelations of hundreds of cases from the 1950s onwards, including 13 suicides.

Having interviewed victims and read testimonies for the state-backed German campaign, which has already induced more than 2,500 people to come forward with harrowing victims' tales, Wenders is working hard to encourage people in their 40s and 50s to speak out.

"If you keep it a secret, the violator wins," Wenders insisted. "It's a very German thing to repress things, maybe it's like that in Belgium too.

"You can't have sympathy with the church," he said. Violators "must not be protected for any reason -- it only perpetuates the evil.

"I've read lots of letters and spoken to lots of people coming out through this campaign.

"I'm considering it as a subject for a film," said Wenders, who has previously spoken of how he imagined himself as a teenager becoming a priest.

Wenders was at the European Parliament to boost his bid to wean European children off the "fast food" of Hollywood movies and computer games and rediscover the "slow food" of European cinema.

"I am very concerned there is a whole generation growing up with only one kind of visual food," he said.

As a German born in 1945, he says movies by peers such as England's Ken Loach or Spain's Pedro Almodovar are the best way for coming generations to get over a "certain tiredness" about Europe and create the missing "emotional ties" he says the European Union needs.

He says Europe can be a force for cultural good in the world, citing a change in attitude towards Cuba.

The EU has begun a process that could lead to an opening of relations with the Communist-led island come the end of the year.

A change here would force the United States to reconsider its "obsolete embargo," the Buena Vista director said.