Antonia Bird’s Priest and my early days as a film critic

Antonia Bird passed away yesterday at the age of 54.

I don’t know how many film buffs out there will recognize her name. The IMDb indicates that she had been working pretty steadily since 1985, but mostly in TV; her feature-film output was limited to four films she directed in the 1990s, and of those, I have only seen two: Priest (1994) and Ravenous (1999).

But Priest looms large in my mind as a film that I got to review at a particular crucial juncture in my life — and so, although my review is fairly critical of the film, I have posted it here in memory of its director.

A bit of background, if I may: In the summer of 1992, I had begun to contribute film reviews on a regular basis to the paper that became known as BC Christian News. Around that same time, I had also begun to seriously re-examine my beliefs about, well, just about everything — starting with sexuality, thanks to a special issue of Discover magazine that kind of blew my mind.

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Review: Priest (dir. Antonia Bird, 1994)

THE MAKERS of Priest claim that their film is meant to be a catalyst for change within the Catholic church, but their confrontational approach does more harm than good to their cause.

Worse, they have mounted the assault on too many fronts at once. In the space of 100 minutes, Priest tries to address issues as diverse as homosexuality, celibacy, the secrecy of the confessional, child abuse, liberation theology, the problem of evil … even a pinch of animal rights. It’s a wonder the ordination of women never comes up.

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