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Out in the Silence

4.3 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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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. --Sundance.org

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

Special Features


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.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Garden Thieves Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: March 9, 2010
  • Run Time: 56 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002Y3GZD2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,120 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Out in the Silence" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
This movie is excellent. I was born in Oil City & moved outside of Washington DC after I graduated from college. I'm really glad this film was made because no one from outside of this area believes me that places like this still exist today. I graduated high school in 2001 with Diane Gramley's son (in a class of 63 people) and remember how difficult she made everything. I've seen many people get mistreated simply because they are gay, black, Latino, etc. I myself am 1/2 Latina and heard some pretty horrible things. I would recommend this movie to everyone.
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Format: DVD
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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