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Light It Up

On Thursday evening in Marion Square, Charleston-based advocacy group Darkness To Light pops the cork on its annual black-tie shindig and fundraiser the Circle of Light Gala (see City Picks). Each year at the gala, the group honors someone with its Voice of Courage Award, recognizing individuals who've stepped forward to bring the topic of child sexual abuse to the fore of our nation's collective conscience. This year, the group will present the award to writer/director/producer Amy Berg, whose 2006 documentary film Deliver Us From Evil premiered to wide critical acclaim at this summer's Los Angeles Film Festival, where it won Best Documentary. The following evening, on Fri. Nov. 17, D2L will sponsor a free screening of the film at South Windermere Cinemas in West Ashley (7 p.m.), followed by a question and answer session with Berg.

Darkness To Light's singular mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of child sexual abuse. Since its creation in Charleston five and a half years ago by Anne Lee, the organization has become an international force, nabbing backing from top-tier partners like CNN, Young & Rubican, Time Inc., and Volvo Cars of North America – who will receive a corporate Voice of Courage Award at the event. Previous individual award winners include actress Anne Heche, Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler, America's Most Wanted host and creator John Walsh, and documentarian Angela Shelton.

The subject of Berg's film is Father Michael O'Grady, one of the most notorious pedophiles in contemporary U.S. history. O'Grady used his authority as a religious leader to exploit and rape dozens of children across California over the course of some 30 years.

"He literally abused hundreds of kids, and the church's response was simply to move him from parish to parish as each allegation was made," says D2L's Libby Campbell-Turner, who's helping coordinate the gala and Friday's screening and Q&A session with the filmmaker.

Berg spent a total of four years investigating pedophile priests for CBS and CNN. And she spent five months convincing O'Grady – who now walks free in his home country of Ireland after serving just seven years in prison – to agree to an on-camera interview.

"This film is basically O'Grady's confession," Campbell-Turner says. "When you watch him, it's so chilling, because he's entirely unemotional about the whole thing. In fact, he seems resentful of the fact that all those who covered up his actions are still moving up in the Catholic hierarchy."

As for the priest who was given responsibility by the Vatican at the time for investigating and dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse? Campbell-Turner laughs wryly. "He's now the Pope." –Patrick Sharbaugh

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