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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

'The Tribunal' Movie World Premiere Friday

Saint Michael Movies

Writer Michael Mergler says to think of "The Tribunal" as a courtroom drama in "a courtroom no one has seen before."

Mergler, a Roman Catholic, wrote and produced "The Tribunal" to dramatize the hearing process for someone seeking an annulment of a marriage from the Catholic Church.

"The Tribunal," premiering Friday at the Cinemark Oakley Station and Rave Cinemas Western Hills 14, was filmed three years ago in Cincinnati, where Mergler lived many years while working as a promoter for Rodd Todd Productions.  It's the first of four films with Catholic messages to be released by Mergler's Saint Michael Movies.

Credit Saint Michael Movies
From left: Tony (Ryan Wesley Gilreath), Emily (Laura Mock) and Joe (Chris Petty)

The story is told through a love triangle. Two rock band members, Tony (Cincinnati native and New York-based actor Ryan Wesley Gilreath) and Joe (Chris Petty from Louisville), are both in love with a nurse named Emily (Oxford native and Miami University graduate Laura Mock).

Joe, a divorced father of a young girl, needs Tony's testimony before a three-priest panel to get an annulment, so he can marry the devout Emily.

"In today's world, the single largest reason why people are alienated from their Catholic faith is their marital situation," says Mergler, who lives in his hometown of Dayton, OH, where he owns a remodeling business.  He also was executive producer, composer, music producer and a singer on "The Tribunal."

The story about "three souls trying to do the right thing," Mergler says, is really "a beacon call to everyone alienated from their Catholic faith through a broken marriage to come home, and be healed through the Tribunal process."

Credit Saint Michael Movies
An upset Tony walks out of the proceedings.

In the movie, Joe and Laura need two witnesses to testify before a three-priest panel, which is not how the process works in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Mergler admits.

"Each diocese has its own process. In Cincinnati, they do everything by affidavit with no open court. In other dioceses they have an open court for all parties, in part to aid in the healing process," said Mergler, who also researched the annulment processes in Fargo, ND, and Sioux City, Iowa.

"I received a lot of advice from priests and Tribunal staff, all of which greatly improved the accuracy of the Tribunal scenes. Although it’s only a dramatization, it’s very true to the teachings of the church," he says.

Church and hearings scenes were filmed at Norwood's Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center, the former Mount Saint Mary of the West seminary. For Tony's home, they shot in Mergler's old Mount Auburn row house on Boal Street overlooking downtown.

The world premiere Friday is the first step toward trying to find a distributor which could get the film into theaters worldwide or on DVDs to church youth groups.

"We're putting it in theaters, and that gives us credibility. Hopefully, we can get to a full roll out through a distributor, and do DVDs and VOD (video on demand). There are 50 Catholic countries we could get this into, if we had a distributor," Mergler says.

Saint Michael Movies has three more Catholic-themed films shot in Cincinnati ready for distribution: "Return To The Tribunal," "Promises To Keep" and "OTR." Production starts next week on a fifth, "A Brand New Kitchen."

John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.