Procession is a work of communal catharsis, applying Greene’s particular documentarian inclinations to emotionally potent ends.
Certain films allow cinema to display its unbridled capacity for humanity. Certain films can truly change lives, as hyperbolic as that may sound. Robert Greene’s new documentary Procession is one such film. A collaboration between Greene, a “drama therapist,” a young actor, and six men who were sexually abused by members of the Catholic Church, Procession channels the documentarian’s proclivity for reenactment into a ferociously emotional project. Joe Eldred, Mike Foreman, Ed Gavagan, Dan Laurine, Michael Sandridge, and Tom Viviano, victims of the same horror, subjected to the same failures of justice, here write and direct short films inspired by their trauma, starring each other and the young actor, Terrick Trobough.
The opportunity to situate these experiences within the realm of fiction or fantasy provides a secure amount of distance for these men, but each individual utilizes their role as director to communicate to their actors the specificities of their pain. “Can we threaten Terrick?” Joe Eldred suggests softly from behind the camera while filming a scene taking place in a confessional. Meanwhile, Tom Viviano, playing the priest, notices something unsettling about the construction of the space: “They’ve got a fucking lock. Why do you need a lock?” He punches it in anger. Procession is, among other things, a compelling examination of masculinity’s different tones. Most of the men are largely reserved in their emotion, save for their trembling and their tears, but flares of furor occasionally do spark up. Mike Foreman is certainly the most outspokenly pissed off – his base vocal register drips with gruff disdain, swears accentuating his every sentence. Elsewhere, in one startling moment, Ed Gavagan calls “cut” with a fierce scream. These outbursts of intensity hold tremendous power, glimpses at the storm of turmoil that has plagued each of these men who had previously felt as if no semblance of relief might ever find them.
By listening to each other’s stories, starring in their memories, standing together in solidarity, these men become brothers. By sharing in a collective pain and a process of facing and hopefully overcoming their harrowing circumstances, the men of Procession exhibit a patience and generosity that feels profoundly and quintessentially spiritual. Whether the making of this film could result in the swift application of justice that some other documentary subjects have managed to win is uncertain at best, and truthfully unlikely. But it is in the making of the film itself that a reward of another kind is evidently shared: through the strength of one’s bravery, the cleansing of the soul.
You can currently stream Robert Greene’s Procession on Netflix.
Originally published as part of DOC NYC 2021 — Dispatch 4.