Conspiracy of Silence (film)

Conspiracy of Silence is a British drama film set in Ireland and inspired by real events. The film challenges celibacy and its implication for the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

Conspiracy of Silence
Directed byJohn Deery
Produced byJohn Deery & Davina Stanley
Written byJohn Deery
StarringJonathan Forbes
Jason Barry
Hugh Quarshie
Hugh Bonneville
Sean McGinley
Chris O'Dowd
Brenda Fricker
Music byFrancis Haines
Stephen W. Parsons
CinematographyJason Lehel
Edited byJamie Trevill
Flick Features
Little Wing Films
Distributed byTLA Releasing
Element Pictures
(UK and Ireland - DVD)
Watch Entertainment
(USA - theatrical)
Joejack Entertainment
(Non-USA - DVD)
Release date
2003 (limited)
2014 (re-release)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$3 million
Box office$2,598[1]

Written and directed by John Deery, the cast includes: Academy Award-winner Brenda Fricker, Hugh Bonneville, Chris O'Dowd, John Lynch, Jonathan Forbes, Jason Barry, Sean McGinley, Fintan McKeown, Jim Norton and Hugh Quarshie.

The movie won many international awards including the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures' Freedom of Expression Award in 2004, which it shared with Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.[2] Deery was also nominated for Best Film Director at the Irish Film Awards in 2003.[3] The screenplay was developed at the Sundance Screenwriters' Lab in Utah and won the Hartley-Merrill International Screenwriting Award presented to Deery at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001.

The film was invited to be shown at many film festivals in 2003 to be in Competition and/or Official Selection including: Taormina, Italy (first public screening, June 2003), Moscow International Film Festival, Opening Night film at the Galway Film Festival, Ireland, Montreal Film Festival, Hamburg Film Festival, Warsaw Film Festival where it won a Special Jury Award, Dinard Festival of British Cinema, France, and the American Film Institute (AFI) Festival in Los Angeles.[4] It received an art house release in the United States[5] but, so far, has not been released in the UK.


Father Sweeney (Patrick Casey), a gay Catholic priest living with HIV, commits suicide. His death leads local investigative journalist David Foley (Jason Barry) to write a story that publicly identifies Sweeney as having HIV.

At the local seminary, two students near ordination are expelled because one, Daniel (Jonathon Forbes) was seen leaving the room of the other, Niall (Paudge Behan). Niall is gay and Daniel is straight and they engaged in no sexual activity but were still expelled for the sake of appearances. Daniel returns home, where he is torn between his calling to the priesthood and his love for his ex-girlfriend Sinead (Catherine Walker).

Daniel meets with Foley, who writes a follow-up article exposing a covered-up AIDS protest that Sweeney had staged at the Vatican three years earlier and Daniel's dismissal. He also alleges that cardinals close to the Pope are engaged in sexual relationships and calls on the Church to re-examine its celibacy requirement for priests. The local bishop, Michael Quinn (Jim Norton), pressures the editor of the local paper not to run the second story. The editor acquiesces but after reading the story sends it to the Irish Times, which prints it.

The next day the bishop, his aide, Foley and Daniel appear together in a live television debate. Before the broadcast, agents of the Church threaten to harm Foley's family unless he retracts his story on the air. Bishop Quinn offers to reinstate Daniel if Daniel is willing to admit he has been wrong. On-air Foley capitulates but Daniel does not, asking the bishop if he himself practices celibacy. When the bishop refuses to answer, Father Sweeney's partner, former priest Matthew Francis (John Lynch) confronts Quinn with Sweeney's suicide note in which Sweeney discloses that Quinn and he had had an affair.

At film's end, Daniel is back at home with Sinead.



The film got a limited US theatrical release in December 2004,[5] following its festival screenings.

2014 re-release

The film was re-launched at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2014 by a new US boutique sales company, Angel Grace Productions, headed by Michael Fister.[6][7]


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2001 Hartley-Merrill International Screenwriting Award John Deery Won
2001 Sundance Screenwriters' Lab Fellowship John Deery Won
2003 Dinard British Film Festival Golden Hitchcock Conspiracy of Silence Nominated
2003 Irish Film and Television Awards Best Film Director John Deery Nominated
2003 Warsaw International Film Festival Special Mention Conspiracy of Silence Won
2004 National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award Conspiracy of Silence Won


  1. "Conspiracy of Silence (2004)". Box Office Mojo. 5 December 2004. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  2. "National Board of Review, USA (2004)". Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  3. "Winners 2003 | IFTA | Irish Film & Television Academy | Irish Film & Television Awards". Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  4. "John Deery Movies | Awards & Nominations | Conspiracy of Silence". Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  5. Gates, Anita (3 December 2004). "Sex, Conspiracy and Suicide: Just Another Day at Church". Retrieved 14 April 2017 via
  6. Kay, Jeremy (6 February 2014). "Michael Fister launches Angel Grace Productions". Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  7. Carole Horst (5 February 2014). "Berlin: Angel Grace Productions Launches With Two Projects". Variety. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
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