Diary of a City Priest

Director: Eugene Martin
Screenwriters: Eugene Martin

Institute History

  • 2001 Sundance Film Festival


Precise, serene, and deeply compelling, Diary of a City Priest reveals the soulful journey of a priest whose spirit is fatigued by a life of charity and ministry in the decaying urban community of north Philadelphia. From the writings of Father John McNamee, director Eugene Martin has created a poetic and incredibly moving portrait of a man mired in spiritual exhaustion until he can no longer see himself or the effects of his work.

At the urging of his friends, Father McNamee begins a diary of daily life at St. Malachy's parish in an attempt to gain insight and meaning into 25 years spent in the priesthood. His life unfolds as a never-ending stream of requests for help—poor visitors come looking for handouts, talented children come looking for a way out of poverty, and young men in trouble with the law seek his assistance. Being eternally available to help his parishioners saps his personal resources to the point where bitterness takes over and spiritual deterioration sets in. The saints descend from heaven to visit his anguished soul, but they provide no answers or comfort, only a way to take on the complicated and frustrating nature of human existence with compassion and grace.

Martin's lyrical direction and David Morse's penetrating performance make Father McNamee's angst-ridden journey entirely palpable. Diary of a City Priest wonderfully and subtly articulates the distinction between the acrimonious attitudes that stem from a bad spirit and those that stem from a tired heart.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

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