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Behind the spotlight

Published : Oct 24, 2016, 10:41 pm IST
Updated : Oct 24, 2016, 10:41 pm IST

Michael Rezendes, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist on whom Spotlight is based, speaks to The Mumbai Age about the movie and more

Michael and Mark Ruffalo
 Michael and Mark Ruffalo

Michael Rezendes, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist on whom Spotlight is based, speaks to The Mumbai Age about the movie and more

Michael Rezendes’ journalistic prowess is no secret. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winner whose investigative work at The Boston Globe with the Spotlight team became the subject of the Oscar-winning movie, Spotlight. The movie, in which Mark Ruffalo plays Michael, follows the team on their mission to uncover sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Michael speaks to us just before the movie premieres on Indian television.

“It was extremely important to me that the movie be an accurate representation of what we did, as well as of me. I wasn’t nervous about the outcome because I trusted the filmmakers and the actors, and had no doubt that it would turn out well. When we did have a screening with the entire team, I was surprised by how much of our journey they had managed to capture,” says Michael.

He goes on to say that Mark Ruffalo’s research on him also took him by surprise. “I really liked the fact that the first question he asked me was why I do my job. He wanted to know the motivation behind working for the team. While talking to me, he took out a pen and paper and started noting down my answers. He studied me and I think that shows on screen,” he tells us. Speaking about what makes him stick on to the Spotlight team, doing the same job at the same newspaper, even after a decade, he says that investigative journalism has always been his passion. “Uncovering stories and bringing important issues to light has always been the goal for me, ever since I got into the field, and I want to continue doing that with the team.”

Elaborating on the investigation that won the team a Pulitzer and brought to light the systemic child abuse linked to the Roman Catholic Church, he explains, “We were extremely objective about finding more facts and evidence. Obviously, there were times when all of us in the team were disturbed by what we were discovering and had to take a step back. But I think that was what motivated us even further to bring out the story and make it public.” He adds, “The movie has received great response, and I believe it was important that this movie be made so that the subject reaches more people. Sexual abuse in churches is still very much an issue and it’s great that the movie recognized our work.” Michael continues to write about sexual abuse and more recently, also investigated the treatment of mental health patients in state prisons.

He also states that although he is the only original member of the team to have stuck on to Spotlight, everyone, including Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter Robinson, remain very much in touch.