“For 30 years, the story of that abuse was largely untold,” said Curran, an Emmy® award-winning cinematographer who produced and directed The Silence.
In the decades following the abuses, the Catholic Church denied the accusations of molestation from St. Michael, and other Native villages throughout Alaska. Meanwhile, the victims internalized their anguish, unable to attain any essence of closure for the events from their childhood.
In The Silence, four victims, now adults, tell their stories from childhood, revealing the events that ravaged their lives and their families. To help bring a sense of closure to what happened decades ago, the bishop from Fairbanks, Alaska, visits St. Michael to console the victims, hear their stories and deliver an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church. The bishop’s visit marked the first time the Catholic Church took responsibility for the wrongdoings of Father Endall and Joseph Lundowski.
“It was a story that needed to be told,” Curran said.
One victim, Alberta Steve, recalled how she was told by her molester that if she said anything to anyone, they wouldn’t believe her, because he worked for the church, he worked for God. “He was right, nobody would believe us,” Steve said.
Another victim, Benjamin Andrews, spoke of being molested on a daily basis by Father Endall and Lundowski. Father Endall told Andrews he was becoming closer to God in the process. When Andrews told his father what happened, he was hung upside down, whipped with a belt and ordered never to blame a priest like that. Later that night, his father came home drunk, and pointing a pistol at his family, shot and killed Andrews’ brother.
“It [The Silence] has not been an easy story to live with for a couple years,” said Curran.
The Silence is Curran’s second documentary. Curran’s first film, Adrift, was a film about his family and the death of his father when Curran was 12. “Adrift allowed me the ability to get in and figure out my history,” he said. “It was a very cathartic experience.”
Based on his own experience, Curran developed an interest in making films that tell stories while unburdening the storytellers from their past. “Telling personal stories, I think, can help people redirect their life,” Curran said. “Art and filmmaking for me personally is the vehicle that helps me do that.”
As a cinematographer, Curran has filmed seven Iditarod Sled Dog Races and most recently was the director of photography on the reality television series Little People Big World, “Which I was really proud of in the end,” Curran said. The series, he said, offered viewers a slice of life from a dwarf’s perspective.
“It’s the kind of filmmaking I like to be involved in, in terms of intimate stories,” Curran said. “We lived with that family and we filmed in their house... we weren’t on a set.”
For Curran, the most rewarding aspect of filmmaking and cinematography is the increase in self-awareness that is a by-product of each production.
“The Silence, it’s not about me, he said, “but I feel like moving into that territory of what the Church did and what happened to this group of people and how they’re trying to sort out [the events that occurred], to move forward in their lives--it helps you work through stuff in your own personal life.”
The Silence was broadcast as a part of the PBS series, FRONTLINE. Learn more on the web at pbs.org/frontline.
Interview by Ben Kreimer
Interview edited by Ben Kreimer with support from Alex Epperson