Critics call film from Missouri School of Journalism filmmaker-in-chief one of the best of 2021

A scene from the documentary "Procession," by Associate Professor Robert Greene, filmmaker-in-chief at the Murray Center

Production of “Procession” featured School of Journalism students in technical roles; the film has been named to the Oscars shortlist

By Austin Fitzgerald

Columbia, Mo. (Dec. 22, 2021) — In September, Netflix announced that they had acquired “Procession,” a documentary film directed by Missouri School of Journalism associate professor Robert Greene. The film, which included students from the School’s Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism as production and camera assistants, follows six survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and clergy as they attempt to heal by making short films that reconstruct their traumatic experiences.

Now, with 2021 coming to a close, the film is attracting a second wave of acclaim as film critics publish their “Best of 2021” lists, and on Tuesday the film was named to the official shortlist for the 94th Academy Awards. As a project that offered students the opportunity to work on a major film under the tutelage of an experienced filmmaker — a hands-on learning experience consistent with the School’s “Missouri Method” approach of learning by doing — we’re rounding up some of the standout praise the film has attracted in the run-up to Oscar season.

“For the film to get this kind of recognition means everything to us, because it means that the six men who took the risk to go through the filmmaking process with our team can feel validated, and the shame and pain that they’ve been living with can be at least somewhat alleviated,” Greene said. “These men made this film to help others, and this kind of critical acclaim and the platform of Netflix gives us a huge boost.”

Congratulations to Greene — the Murray Center’s filmmaker-in chief — and the students who worked on the film that Brian Tallerico of called, “one of the best films ever made about not just the long-term impact of traumatic events but the difficult, unpredictable act of healing.”

The Wrap names “Procession” the best documentary of 2021, placing the film at the No. 1 spot in its top ten list. Critic Robert Abele writes: “A beautiful, wrenching and ever-sensitive exploration of community, it’s also a landmark film about the suffering that writes so many lives, and how art can nourish such souls.”

“Procession” is the second film featured in the Times’ “50 best movies on Netflix” list, which draws on the entirety of the Netflix catalogue—not just films from this year. In fact, the film is one of only four on the list released in 2021. The Times calls the film “a deeply moving and blisteringly powerful account of survival and support.”

The Los Angeles Times puts the film in the top 3 in critic Justin Chang’s “best movies of 2021.” It’s also the only documentary in the top 10 list. The Times’ original review called the film “one of the more extraordinary cinematic hybrids of form and feeling in recent memory.”

Rolling Stone features “Procession” in its “10 best documentaries of 2021” list at No. 7., and the film also appeared at No. 7 on the publication’s “Top 25 films of 2021.” Critic David Fear writes, “Procession is a harrowing watch, to be sure, but also sensitive to what’s happening with these subjects in a way that doesn’t go for easy emotional button-pushing, or playing down the white-knuckle struggle they endure while processing all of it.”

The Boston Globe included the film in its overview of the year’s 10 best documentaries, which were not ranked. The Globe’s Peter Keough writes, “Like the Passion plays of medieval times, these ritualistic re-creations seek to bring peace to the sufferers and engender awareness and compassion in the viewer.

The New Yorker puts “Procession” at No. 10 on its “Best Movies of 2021” list, one of only two documentaries to appear in the top 10. In his original review of the film, The New Yorker critic Richard Brody wrote, “‘Procession’ does more than bear witness to atrocities; it uses the artistic power of the cinema to inscribe them in history.”

Indiewire places the film at No. 3 in its “Best Documentary” list, which was compiled from the outlet’s annual survey of nearly 200 critics worldwide. In Indiewire’s review, critic David Ehrlich wrote, “Seeing how the presence and potential of a movie camera inspires these men to think about their trauma in a fundamentally different way than they ever have before is perhaps the single most lucid testament to the transformative power of Greene’s dialectic meta-cinema.”

The Guardian names “Procession” one of the 50 best films of 2021. In a five-star review, critic Simran Hans wrote, “What could have been a disaster in the hands of a less sensitive film-maker ends up an extraordinary feat of care, collaboration and creativity.”

Esquire puts “Procession” in the top 10 in its “60 best movies of 2021” list, writing, “Segueing between the past the present, the real and the fictional, and the heartbreaking and the inspiring, Procession is a formally daring non-fiction effort that not only plumbs the depths of human monstrousness and suffering, but locates a measure of catharsis via the camaraderie of kindred souls and the magic of the movies.

Updated: December 22, 2021

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