For us journalists, the best was saved for the last during the 88th Academy Awards. Barely a moment had passed since cinema lovers across the globe heaved a collective sigh of relief over Leonardo DiCaprio taking home the golden statuette for the best actor after being nominated five times for an Oscar in his career spanning 23 years when Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight was declared the winner of best picture award.
Irrespective of all those debates over whether he truly deserved the award for The Revenant, personally, I was happy for DiCaprio. However, I was happier for the team of Spotlight, one of my favourite films of this Oscar season. The film based on the investigation carried out in 2001 by a team of Boston Globe journalists called ‘Spotlight’ in exposing the systematic attempt by the church to sweep under the carpet the cases of widespread pedophilia perpetrated by more than 70 local priests, validates two things. Firstly, an engaging story can be told by remaining true to facts, without using any gimmicks. Secondly, a bunch of dedicated journalists can offer as much thrill as any action hero.
Nearly 13 years after the stories of child abuse made public, Spotlight celebrates the virtues of investigative reporting at a time when the old world of journalism seems to have changed drastically. Somewhere it also drives home the point that the thrill of chasing a good story and the power of print can’t diminish notwithstanding 24-hour news, celebrity gossip and hyper-active social media.
Much of the drama in Spotlight, called a “dramatic-thriller”, is in the investigation. The camera follows this persuasive bunch of journos as they go from doorstep to doorstep trying to find out the truth from the victims or rushing off to the court to lay their hands on relevant documents. This is how most journalists operated much before internet ruled the newsroom and when social media was not threatening to steal the thunder of print journalism.
The narrative of Spotlight, which bagged the best original screenplay award, is amazingly straightforward. This keeps the focus on the investigation and the story free of any frills. Even though we get to see the work and dedication of a bunch of journalists, their personal lives don’t get much mention, just enough to help in their characterisation. In his press statement, director, McCarthy says: “Spotlight serves as a shining example of what professional, top-flight journalists can accomplish. I want to ring the bell about how essential this kind of journalism is, because to me, these reporters are straight-up heroes.”
The film, with an impressive ensemble that includes Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, seemed to have sprung a surprise by beating the front-runners — The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, both the films are visually striking and widely-publicised. However, we journalists are not complaining.