This month the ACLU of PA has been working to bring “Out in the Silence,” a film by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer, to communities across the state. The film has won several awards (including the Audience Award at the Hardacre Film and Cinema Festival in the small town of Tipton, Iowa, and an Alternative Spirit Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival), but having seen the film five times over the course of three weeks, I do not need to rely on these recommendations – I am somewhat of an expert myself.
By turns sad, funny, and infuriating, the film follows the lives of several current and former residents of Oil City, PA, a small Rust Belt town in western Pennsylvania. After Joe Wilson, a native of the town, decides to place an announcement of his wedding to Dean Hamer in his hometown newspaper, a flurry of nasty responses ensue. One day, however, he receives a letter from a mother in Oil City whose gay teen has been bullied so badly that she has had to withdraw him from school. Knowing of no other place to turn, she has resorted to writing to a man she just happened to see in the newspaper. Joe and Dean return to Oil City to document what is happening with this mother and her son (see page 16 of the ACLU’s 2007 Legal Docket for information about the lawsuit they filed against the school district), as well as Joe’s former neighbor and her same-sex partner who are working to open a business in town.
Among the films most notable points are the pain experienced by the teenage C.J., the conversations between filmmaker Joe and an evangelical pastor who wrote a letter to the newspaper condemning his wedding announcement, and the father of a teen in a neighboring community who talks about his transformation from someone who would physically assault gay people just for existing to his support of his son today.
If you have not had the opportunity to see “Out in the Silence” at our screenings in Lewisburg, York, Lititz, Harrisburg, or Titusville, you can watch it on WITF November 1, 2009, at 5:00 p.m. Upcoming showings are also planned for Pittsburgh, Erie, Sharon, Oil City, and Stroudsburg.
Becca in Harrisburg