Out in the Silence
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great story about the perils that can sometimes be faced by members of the LGBT community who live and love in small towns and communities across the country. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Marcus E. Sharpe
A documentary that explores the dynamics of small town America in terms of its diverse peoples and the challenges they face in order to live in concord as a community, manifest... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Matthew B. Grippi
Great story. Misleading though. C.J. is not really gay. Having a character that is not truly gay in a story like this, takes away from the REAL story being told. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Matt
It is painful to watch. It's hard to believe those so called "Christians" can spit out so much hate and pain to a minority group. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Wang Qi
It's a very emotional movie. The documentary shows the hostility the town's people have against a young gay student in a small town in PA. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
good story about homophobia and emotions of kids to deal with itPublished 17 months ago by sweatpentsman
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 17 months ago by Daniel Lewis Frommherz
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