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Out in the Silence (2009)

Joe Wilson , CJ Springer , Joe Wilson , Dean Hamer  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Joe Wilson, CJ Springer, Kathy Springer
  • Directors: Joe Wilson, Dean Hamer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Garden Thieves Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: March 9, 2010
  • Run Time: 56 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002Y3GZD2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,360 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Out in the Silence" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Filmmaker Joe Wilson directs this documentary chronicling the aftermath of a same-sex wedding announcement in the local newspaper of a conservative rural community, and the widely varying, highly emotional reactions of the town's residents. Shorter Non-theatrical version (56 min) Does not contain Spanish subtitles.


Out In the Silence captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when the announcement of filmmaker Joe Wilson s wedding to another man ignites a firestorm of controversy in the small Pennsylvania hometown he left long ago. Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school, Wilson takes an exhilarating journey through love, hate, and understanding in rural America. The approach to the film is aimed at breaking the mold of the traditional documentary. It is not solely observational. It is not a memoir, and it is not a news piece. As filmmaker, as protagonist, as insider and outsider, Wilson uses the camera to empower, to challenge, to confront, and to look beneath the veneer of the fragile balance of order in his conservative hometown. It is a provocative, entertaining, and deeply personal social issue documentary that dramatically illustrates the challenges of being different in a small town environment and the transformation that is possible when those who have long been constrained by a traditional code of silence summon the courage to break it.

Filmmaker Joe Wilson travels back to his roots in this autobiographical documentary. Growing up in the small town of Oil City, Pa., Wilson remained closeted, but after college, Peace Corps and settling in Washington, D.C., he came out and wed Dean Hamer (the film's co-director). After publishing his marriage announcement in Oil City's newspaper, Joe received a torrent of negative, bigoted letters and one he didn't expect. Kathy Springer wrote that her 16-year-old son, CJ, had recently come out and was being tortured daily by his classmates. Seeing a community in need, Wilson and Hamer, with camera in hands, headed north to see what they could do. Between interviewing ministers, rebuilding cars, restoring old theaters and battling both the school board and the antagonistic American Family Association (all while making a documentary about it), the newfound friends bring about the change that Oil City needed so badly. A poignant, personal and engrossing story. Karen Price --Philadelphia Citypaper

Growing up as the youngest member of an Irish Catholic family, Joe Wilson realized he was gay when he was a teenager. But in small, conservative Oil City, Pennsylvania, he didn t reveal who he truly was for fear of losing his friends and family. He eventually left Oil City, met his partner, Dean, and got married. But little did he know that his decision to put his wedding announcement in his hometown paper would change his life. The wedding notice resulted in many angry and hateful letters, hardly surprising in a town with billboards about the Bible and a business with a sign out front advertising the upcoming gun raffle. But one letter Joe received really caught his attention. It was from the mother of CJ Bills, a teenager harassed so much because of his sexuality that he had cried for three hours the previous night. Realizing that the hate that still permeated the town was not just directed at same-sex marriage but at the mere existence of openly gay people, Joe and Dean packed their camera and headed back to Oil City. CJ Bills had been a popular High School jock. However, when he defended another gay student from harassment and then came out himself, his so-called friends abandoned him, and he became a target. Teachers and administrators knew of the abuse but did nothing. CJ eventually left school and seldom even left his home to avoid the constant harassment and death threats. Out in the Silence is a must-see, especially for LGBT youth and their parents. In addition to presenting a look at ignorance and homophobia in rural America, the film also examines the challenges of meeting someone in a small town, the use of religion and scare tactics to deny rights to LGBT individuals, and how a community s intolerant attitude can contribute to its downfall. Ultimately, it is reminiscent of Harvey Milk s call to action, the idea that change comes from people being open about who they are, refusing to run or hide. Christopher Roesch --Rochester Image Out

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Story December 11, 2009
This film reminds me of an Agnes Varda documentary: you start out thinking it's about one thing, but it turns into quite another.

The story begins when the filmmaker runs an announcement of his marriage to another man in his hometown newspaper in the small, conservative town of Oil City, PA. Not surprisingly there is quite a backlash, especially from the head of a local right-wing fundamentalist group. But instead of spending the next hour on the pros and cons of same-sex marriage, the filmmaker begins to explore what it's like to be gay or lesbian in a rural community.
Soon, the film evolves into a completely different set of interrelated stories about a gay youth who is being tormented at the oil City High School and his brave mom, two women who are trying to build a business, and a fundamentalist preacher who has second thoughts about the consequenceses of his religious pronouncements. Each character is wonderful in their own way, but I especially liked the mother, Kathy, who is like a lioness fighting for her cubs.

Despite the serious subject matter, the documentary has plenty of joy and humor. I was fortunate to watch a preview screening in my home town with a supportive audience, and they were alternately crying, laughing and cheering.

This is the best documentary I've watched in a long time. The real beauty is that it's not just for the already enlightened. Nobody with a heart could watch this film and not be deeply moved.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold and Compelling January 30, 2010
I grew up in the mountains of western Pennsylvania in a place similar to the setting of this documentary. In the late 1970's and 1980's it was unheard of for anyone in my school to "come out." I doubt I would have known what that meant. This documentary beautifully reveals the pain experienced by gays trying to cope with life in small town America. The pacing is effortless. The intimate way the camera reveals the main characters lives illustrates the power of documentary to inspire empathy for "the other." The fascinating curveball in Oil City is the local American Family Association chapter, which is unusual but serves as a convenient metaphor for larger forces in the nation. I wish I could have seen a film like this when I was a teenager. I was most impressed by the gradual shift in the attitude of Evangelical Pastor Mark Micklos. Though all is not well in small town America, this work shows that progress is possible. Everyone who lives in rural areas and in small cities should watch this DVD.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will be good for promoting discussion and understanding December 29, 2009
I was lucky enough to catch an advance preview of this documentary, and sincerely hope it will be seen by as many groups and individuals as possible. As somebody very familiar with a similar community in Pennsylvania, I found the film an important window into small town America's slowly changing outlook on homosexuality and tolerance. While the filmmakers are open and upfront about their own point of view, they provide a nuanced, compassionate portrait of the residents of Oil City Pennsylvania. A very human story that will serve as a useful tool in promoting discussion and understanding among different people.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting; both predictable and surprising October 22, 2010
This is an interesting if mostly predictable movie. The drama of a gay kid in a redneck high school is the predictable part, although the kid in this case is unusually appealing. That is partly because he has an almost Brando-like look and quiet, macho strength about him, but mainly because he seems so perfectly NORMAL. He has a gentle manner, but there is nothing about him that would flag him as gay. So his decision to come out was perhaps especially brave because he is not the sort everybody would already know is gay. That is how he comes across in the movie, anyway: just a normal teenage kid whose main interests seem to be sports and hot rods, not fashion and Madonna.

But there is nothing new in his story: gay kid gets abused at school; teachers and school board turn a blind eye and a deaf ear, refusing even to address the issue; Mom is loving and supportive but lacks the confidence and resources to fight the system alone - until the ACLU gets involved.... You know the rest.

But what is extraordinary in this movie is a local pastor named Mark Micklos. He is one of the people who wrote to the hometown paper objecting to the Joe Wilson/Dean Hamer wedding announcement that was the catalyst for the whole movie. Wilson begins by interviewing him and his wife, and as he is with most of his interviewees, Wilson starts out pretty defensive. But although they disagree about gay marriage, Micklos refuses to spar with Wilson about the issue. Instead, he insists on keeping a dialog open and on trying to show Wilson the love of Jesus instead of arguing with or attacking him.

What is amazing and deeply gratifying is that it works. Almost against his will, Wilson begins to trust him. They never agree, but they become real friends. By the end of the movie, the greatest change is in Joe Wilson himself. He is less defensive and more tolerant of those who are intolerant of him. If all Christians were like Mark Micklos, the world would be a much better place.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving film about important issues December 16, 2009
By Tom F
This powerful film does what the best social-issue films do: it takes a specific local story, and while presenting it in a fully-rounded, deep, and elegant way, it also illuminates a larger issue, provoking questions that will resonate with audiences of all kinds and in all places. This is a well-made film, illuminating the story of gay and lesbian people grappling with the realities of overyday life in their conservative rural community. Its fluid storytelling, high production values, and compelling characters pulled me in from the opening moments, and engaged me to the very end. It's poignant, powerful, acessible, shows both sides of the issue, and is surprisingly humorous. I highly recommend it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Published 7 days ago by Kevin R. Willis
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good story about homophobia and emotions of kids to deal with it
Published 1 month ago by sweatpentsman
5.0 out of 5 stars This film has done an excellent job in exposing the truth
I understand all to well the trials of our youth in small towns across America. This film has done an excellent job in exposing the truth.
Published 2 months ago by Daniel Lewis Frommherz
4.0 out of 5 stars A head on look at discrimination in small town America
Out in the Silence is very well done as a documentary on being out as a gay person in small town America. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Lynn B. Schornick
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring and heart warming
growing my self in a town where being gay was neither tolerated nor acceptable i was able to relate to this amazing heart warming film. Read more
Published 5 months ago by prince
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary young man and documentary
The fight that this young man and his mother had to take on because he was terribly bullied at school for being gay, was a terrible thing - but he emerges triumphant!
Published 6 months ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars movie
It made me stop and think about how so many people can be mean to someone that is different from themselves. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Steve L. Sexton
2.0 out of 5 stars Out in the Silence
Out in the Silence was bought for my pleasure.. you read you watch you decided.. I can't tell you to like or hate a movies based on my thoughts..
Published 8 months ago by John Bryant
4.0 out of 5 stars great movie
one courageous kid and family, should be seen by anyone who has ever been discriminated against. well worth watching this movie.
Published 9 months ago by Marcus
3.0 out of 5 stars What can I say.
Sometimes I can pick them and sometimes I can't. It was okay for a documentary. But not exactly up my alley. Maybe next time.
Published 9 months ago by mido
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