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Video: Church and the Fourth Estate

When a reporter uncovers a file that reveals a shocking series of child-abuse allegations in Idaho’s Boy Scouts, the investigation rattles a tight-knit community and implicates the Mormon Church. 

Trigger Alert: This film contains graphic descriptions of sexual molestation.

A film by Brian Knappenberger

A documentary produced by Field of Vision

Running time: 33 minutes

Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the documentary.


SUNDANCE 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW

By Norman Gidney writing for Film Threat.

Director Brian Knappenberger returns to the world of documentaries with a searing piece of work. His new short film documentary Church and the Fourth Estate follows abuse victim Adam Steed, and reporter Peter Zuckerman. Steed is a devout Mormon and Boy Scout, and Zuckerman is an Idaho reporter who received a tip via sticky note about a case that had been literally removed from the record.

Steed painfully recounts his abuse. A scout leader took advantage of their position of power during a quiet weekend at summer camp, forever scarring him. Equally disturbing is how the Scouts and church leaders encouraged Steed and his family to keep it contained within the Church of Latter-Day Saints so as not to bring shame upon their religion. Years later, reporter Zuckerman ran a series of stories outlining the incident and coverup, only to be attacked by Idaho’s richest man, Frank VanderSloot.

“…a case that had been literally removed from the record.”

Church and the Fourth Estate is a gut-wrenching account of misused oversight and the abuse of power. Knappenberger keeps a lean narrative as we follow the subjects and their battle for truth, and for sanity, consequences be damned. During one heartbreaking scene, Zukerman breaks down during deposition in his attempt to stand firm in the face of attacks, death threats, and ultimately his outing as a gay man.

Knappenberger has much more on his mind than attacking the Boy Scouts or the Church of Latter-Day Saints. This is a documentary about the abuse of trust and power. It’s a film about how at very crucial times, the forces of authority can fail in a disastrous fashion. At that moment, it is up to the victim and those supportive to speak out against the enemy.

Though a short-form documentary, Church and the Fourth Estate delivers a tremendously important message. One that speaks to the current climate on a variety of fronts. Knappenberger proves that despite the best efforts of those afraid of the truth to cover things up, the truth always prevails. Always.

Church and the Fourth Estate screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

10 comments on “Video: Church and the Fourth Estate

  1. Lhars
    September 5, 2022

    Re “the truth always prevails”

    No. That’s mostly a fantasy, not reality. Because most often the truth does NOT prevail.

    WHY does the truth typically not prevail? — Meet and get acquainted with “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room” … https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html

    Are you one of them?

    (CAVEAT — only read the 2 pink elephant article if you’re GENUINELY interested in the truth and therefore “CAN handle the truth” …)

    Like

  2. allisonfine
    September 4, 2022

    Thank you for this sensitive account.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 4, 2022

      Thanks, Allison. I’m often horrified by the way people treat children.

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      • allisonfine
        September 4, 2022

        I am too. The abuse of our children belongs to all of us to address the truth and the crisis. This includes, of course, the travesty against our Indigenous children in boarding schools and elsewhere. A society that does not care and love the most vulnerable is a society that will collapse from within.

        Like

  3. Barbara Huntington
    September 4, 2022

    My mother told me tiny pieces of stories about Catholic boarding schools in New Mexico. I don’t think I heard 1/10 of what she took to her grave.

    Like

  4. Barbara Huntington
    September 4, 2022

    Powerful.

    Like

  5. loranneke
    September 4, 2022

    Thank you for posting this, Michael. The same abominations happened in Belgium, in the many girl’s Catholic boarding schools, led by nuns. And “It” happens still — and the religious organizations, etc. are still immensely powerful in keeping such abuse under wraps. But, at least, some men and women are coming forward, and more and more people are attentive and ready to help denounce such deeply traumatic abuse to children.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      September 4, 2022

      Thanks for sharing, Laure-Anne. Those of us who have survived childhood sexual abuse know how devastating it is, and for the abuse to come from a priest or nun, who carry the weight of religious reverence with them, is especially destructive. In the film, the abuse came from Boy Scout leaders who, in the community in which I was raised in the 1950s and 60s, were highly admired, especially by the boys under their care. These wounds go deep and can contribute to alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence, divorce and a host of other PTSD related problems.

      >

      Liked by 2 people

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