For his fine documentary Chain Camera, Kirby Dick (director of Derrida and Sick: The Life And Death Of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist) distributed video cameras to a diverse group of students at a Los Angeles high school and had them record frank diaries of their lives. The result was unusually revealing and intimate, which owed something to the kids' natural facility with the cameras, but perhaps more so to the narcissism inherent to navel-gazing teenagers. Dick employs the same device for some scenes in Twist Of Faith, his intermittently powerful look at sex-abuse scandals within Toledo's Catholic Church, but when he hands cameras over to adults, the effect is uncomfortably invasive and voyeuristic. No doubt Dick welcomed the tense scenes of a family under enormous stress, gradually deteriorating in the face of a painful, highly publicized lawsuit against an abusive priest and a local diocese that shuffled the allegations under the rug. But too many times—such as when the tortured accuser talks to his young daughter about going public with the charges—it's hard not to wonder why Dad is setting the camera up for such a private moment.
Mixing this home-movie material with more straightforward interview and courtroom footage, Twist Of Faith focuses on Tony Comes, a thirtysomething Toledo firefighter who lives in a nice suburban home with his wife Wendy and their two young children. Comes' traumatic past comes back to haunt him when he discovers that a nearby neighbor is Dennis Gray, a priest and Catholic high-school dean who allegedly molested Comes as a teenager. When Comes and his family decide to come forward with the charges, they're initially informed by the sympathetic bishop that no one else had leveled similar charges against Gray, but they later discover that to be untrue. In fact, the Church had covered up for Gray since as early as 1985, and when Comes and the other men unite for a powerful lawsuit against the diocese, they're met with the evasiveness and lack of accountability that's been endemic to the worldwide Catholic abuse scandal.
Perhaps because the trial hits so many delays and roadblocks, Twist Of Faith doesn't gather much dramatic momentum, though there's something to be said for the emotional grind of running in place. Over the course of the film, Comes' mental state clearly withers as the case drags on, which leads to some wrenching scenes in which his problems have a toxic impact on his marriage and family life. Many times, his motives for dragging the camera into counseling sessions or reunions with other abused men seem questionable, even exploitative, and it's hard to see how his self-styled Capturing The Friedmans helps anyone. But as a picture of the long-term impact of molestation, especially when it's linked to an authority figure of the highest spiritual order, Twist Of Faith reveals the devastation for which the Church has so arrogantly failed to take responsibility.