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Father Colin (writer/director Paul Roland) is a social media sensation. During the lockdown he used his artistic abilities and somber charisma to launch a YouTube channel called Exemplum. As the title card explains, exemplum is defined as “an anecdote that illustrates or supports a moral point, as in a medieval sermon.” Unfortunately, Colin finds material for his morality tales in an immoral way: he’s been recording confessions.

If you love old movies, you’re probably familiar with film noir. These gritty, shadowy movies tell stories of men doomed by taking the wrong path. Sometimes they are decent men caught in a downward spiral. Sometimes they are bad men justly punished. Either way, we always know that their sins will find them out. This is a modern film noir tale. 

Exemplum (available on Tubi) was made for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 and has gone on to win numerous awards. 

When the church demands he remove himself from the spotlight, Colin suffers a crisis of faith. He’d already sacrificed so much to become a priest. Why does God keep giving him things only to take them away? So he decides to turn his back on God and take some revenge. One of his congregants, Louis (Joseph Griffin), is a despicable restaurateur and a serial philanderer going through a vicious divorce, whom Colin has on tape confessing fantasies of killing his wife. Louis also gives large donations to the church, so Colin sees an opportunity to injure two birds with one stone through some clever blackmail.

Allegra (Jennifer Ann Massey), Louis’s wife, puts Colin in touch with a computer hacker to assist in his scheme. The Owl only communicates through an encrypted laptop yet seems to always be watching, and demands Colin prove that he is his own man before moving forward. To do so, Colin romances his new neighbor Lilly (Brittany Lewis), fully breaking all his vows. 

What started with good intentions for Colin, to tell edifying stories, becomes a living nightmare. When it comes to revenge (which Colin convinces himself is karmic justice) it’s never about money for him; it’s about making other people hurt as much as he is hurting. Yet as Solomon said, “He who digs a pit will fall into it, and a serpent will bite him who breaks through a wall” (Ecclesiastes 10:8). When the unexpected happens and Colin tries to change course, well, this is a film noir after all.

Filmed in grainy black and white, with heavy profanity and implied sexuality, this isn’t a movie for everyone. Yet it’s rare to see something so artistic with such a moral core. Those who choose to observe Colin’s descent will find much to admire and reflect upon. (Indie Rights. Watch on Tubi and YouTube)

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