Dean Hamer and Joseph Wilson's wedding announcement, published in the Oil City Derrick newspaper. Photo access: "Out of the Silence" Press Kit
A 57-minute documentary which recently premiered at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York is taking a look at one small Pennsylvania town’s views on homosexuality, according to the film’s official web site.
Based on the true events surrounding the film’s Producer and Writer Joe Wilson and Director of Photography Dean Hamer, Out in the Silence dives into the rural life of Oil City, Pennsylvania, where “filmmaker Joe Wilson’s wedding to another man ignites a firestorm of controversy and a quest for change,” according to the movie’s official synopsis.
After placing their marriage announcement in the local paper, nested among photos of several heterosexual couples, Wilson and Hamer quickly became the center of controversy and the target of local residents. But one local mother, Kathy Springer, just happened to have a son, C.J., who had been bullied and even “brutally tormented” at school for being gay.
With no help from local authorities, Springer sought Wilson’s help and together they agreed to confront the school administrators who, according to Springer, made every day “eight hours of pure hell” for C.J. This unfortunate situation ultimately drew Wilson back to the small hometown he left behind all those years ago.
But on the other side of things, local resident Diana Gramley, leader of the conservative American Family Association, grew enraged after seeing Wilson and Hamer’s wedding announcement. Motivated to rid her small town of the gay agenda, Gramley began campaigning against any and all such forms of perversion and even asked residents to openly condemn same-sex marriage.
Out in the Silence will additionally cover the unlikely friendship and bond made between Wilson and one local evangelical pastor, who strove to promote understanding and harmony between the town’s gay couples and other local residents. And although the film makes it clear that the pastor and his wife disagreed with the couple’s lifestyle choices, the two still seem happy to have gained a friendship with Wilson and Hamer.
As an unconventional documentary, Out in the Silence additionally features footage and photography shot by C.J. himself, the young boy tormented at school for his sexuality. Coupled with beautiful scenery, rustic, abandoned oil factories, old family photos, and a “hauntingly raw” soundtrack provided by transgender singer/songwriter Namoli Brennet, C.J.’s personal portrait of his own private suffering paints a visually and emotionally dynamic picture for viewers of all faiths and beliefs.
“Out in the Silence is not a film I set out to make,” says Director Dean Hamer. “It’s not a story of the God-hates-fags or the kids-who-get-indoctrinated-at-Jesus-camp type. It’s not about attention-seeking hate mongers, angry protesters, or the extremes of any side.”
Hamer says the film is about understanding and acceptance.
“It emerged out of a firestorm of controversy, and the realization that if I didn’t shine a light on and try to understand and illuminate the basis for the controversy, it would simply pass away into history’s ether … and silence would settle once again over my hometown in the faded hills of northwestern Pennsylvania, affirming and perpetuating the fear and isolation that I knew too well as a young gay boy in a stiflingly anti-gay world.”
Out in the Silence will debut on two of New York’s largest public television stations: WLIW (June 26, 3 p.m. ET) and WNET (June 27, 11:30 p.m. ET).
You can purchase the film on DVD, request a screening, find a television broadcast in your area and watch the trailer at the official web site: http://wpsu.org/outinthesilence/.
The film’s HD trailer is also available on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfpObMuudM4