Shea is a survivor of Catholic Church clergy sexual abuse. Here's what he told bi-monthly Diabolique magazine, a publication to which he has contributed:
The film tackles the Catholic Church and themes of rigid dogmatic ideology and beliefs versus freedom. “Ave Maria definitely is one of the most personal [of my films]. It is the first time I used horror as a tool to point my finger directly at the church. Horror is an amazing genre because it provides the perfect platform for metaphors for the themes of abuse.”
The writer of the Diabolique item, Josef Luciano, predicted big things for Ave Maria on the festival circuit, and he was right. Per a report in the Gazette & Telegram, Shea just won the Audience Award at Rome's 2013 Interiora Horror Film Festival:
"There was a satisfaction in showing this in Rome," says Shea. "I know people who are dead because of clergy sexual abuse, who killed themselves. In a lot of ways, I carry their ghosts with me. I wanted to make a stand there, to say that I'm alive and that they can't do anything to me. To tell other survivors that they don't have any control or power over you. There's just none."
Wow. Ave Maria is actually a sequel to Shea's very first short, Microcinema. The star of both is a female vigilante character named Missy.
The movie makes pointed use of a rendition of the titular song by famed 19th century castrati Alessandro Moreschi. Shea suggests the sanctioning of castration to preserve the purity of a young person's singing voice is one more shocking example of the Catholic Church's sometimes wanton disregard for its youngest and most innocent followers.
Previously on FilmStew:
Catholic Sex Abuse Victim Fights Back