Not in Our Town: Light in the Darkness
This documentary follows a community in crisis after the fatal attack of a local immigrant resident. Stunned by the violence, diverse community stakeholders openly confront the crime and the divisive atmosphere, and commit to ongoing actions to prevent future hate crimes and intolerance.
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This 56-minute documentary was broadcast on PBS by KQED in Northern California as part of a series titled "Not In Our Town". Each episode of the NIOT series focused on how a community dealt with violence or hate crimes in their community. This episode focuses on the small town of Patchogue, NY - 90 minutes north of Manhattan - on Long Island. The town has a significant portion of Hispanic aliens (including illegal ones) from Ecuador. These Hispanics were being harassed by some residents and often chased or beaten. The hate crimes came to a head when one young man was brutally killed. The mayor took it upon himself to get the community together to insure that everyone (EVERYONE - whether legal or illegally residing in the town) was safe.
We learn that the murder was done by seven teenagers who were from a neighboring town; not residents of Patchogue. The leader originally pleaded guilty (later changing his plea). While a little time is spent covering the trial - that is not the focus of this film. In fact the one thing I found missing was any discussion of WHY these seven teens committed the crime. The easiest way to stop hate crimes (or any crime for that matter) is to understand the motive and then educate others so that it doesn't occur. We never (surprisingly) learn what the teens' defense position was. We do learn that the residents of Patchogue did hold a vigil, held another on the next two anniversaries of the killing and a few of the elected officials made a trip to the victim's home city in Ecuador.
So, personally, I felt that the film could have gone deeper in explaining the motives and how - other than cultural diversity sensitivity sessions in the schools - something could be done with the adults in the community. After all, as it is mentioned in the film, humans are not born with hatred and prejudice; they must learn it,
There are four short "special features" (total 12 minutes) with film of the 2nd anniversary of the murder, the visit to Ecuador the town's librarian winning an award and the making of a memorial quilt by some town residents.