Monday, November 15, 2010

Will You Speak Out In The Silence To End Bigotry, Bullying & Discrimination?

Will You Join Us to Speak OUT IN THE SILENCE
to End Bigotry, Bullying & Discrimination?
Award-winning documentary to be shown
at Teaneck International Film Festival
to help build bridges on gay issues, bullying and teen suicides

Teaneck NJ – OUT IN THE SILENCE, an Emmy award-winning documentary about religious attitudes toward same-sex unions and the struggles faced by gay teens, will be the closing film at the Teaneck International Film Festival. It will be shown at the Puffin Cultural Forum, 20 Puffin Way, Sunday, November 21, at 8:15 p.m. Tickets are $5 if purchased in advance (at, or at local stores: Animations, Brier Rose Books, and Teaneck General Store) and $7 at the door.

The screening is being held in response to a controversy over a same-sex wedding announcement appearing in the New Jersey Jewish Standard newspaper and the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, says Jeremy Lentz, the festival's executive director.

"The purpose of this screening is to expand public awareness about the difficulties lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face in suburbia and small town America," continued Lentz.

Filmmakers Joe Wilson and New Jersey native Dean Hamer will follow the screening of their “stunning documentary” (Philadelphia Inquirer) with a Q & A session about inclusion, fairness, and equality for LGBT people. Rabbi Steven Sirbu, of Teaneck’s Temple Emeth, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), and Jeremy Lentz, Executive Director of TIFF, will participate in the post-film discussion which will be moderated by Sandi Klein (1010WINS).

OUT IN THE SILENCE touches on one of the most urgent human and civil rights concerns of our time, particularly in this area, where the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, recent hate crimes against gays, and the debate over marriage equality which began with an announcement in a local newspaper, have been making headlines and sparking discussion and debate. “We’re hopeful that the inclusion of the film in the Teaneck festival will open up dialogue and civil engagement on this topic throughout the region,” said Wilson.

The film, produced in association with the Sundance Institute, premiered in the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at New York’s Lincoln Center and has won kudos at film festivals nationwide, as well as a Mid-Atlantic Emmy award for outstanding achievement in documentary. But Wilson and Hamer are most interested in using it as part of a grassroots campaign to raise LGBT visibility, build bridges across identity lines and morally charged religious divides, and advocate for safe schools.

Wilson and Hamer did not set out to make a documentary about LGBT issues, but after the couple announced their wedding in Wilson’s small hometown newspaper, there was a firestorm of controversy initiated by the head of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, who happened to live in the town.

“In Pennsylvania, as in suburban New Jersey, there are people who try to use religion as a wedge issue to divide communities,” said Wilson. “But as we documented the controversy over three years, it became apparent that many more people wanted to have a civil dialogue and close the gaps that have divided families, friends, and neighbors for far too long.”

Two key figures in the documentary are an Evangelical preacher and his wife who start off as vehement opponents of same-sex unions. After getting to know Wilson and Hamer over several years of filming, and meeting other LGBT people in their community, they have a change of heart and become close friends.

“It was a remarkable journey for all of us,” said Hamer. “It just goes to show the type of transformation that is possible when people on opposite sides of an issue lay down their swords and get to know one another.”

The film also documents the harrowing, and ultimately successful, journey of CJ, a gay teen whose mother contacted Wilson after her son was brutally gay-bashed at high school. Their efforts to hold the school administrators accountable lead to anti-bullying measures being introduced in the school system.

“The recent rash of teen suicides due to anti-LGBT bigotry, bullying, and harassment is a tragic reminder of how far we have to go to counter the intolerance and homophobia that are claiming young lives,” commented Wilson. “We need the sort of courage demonstrated by CJ translated into a national movement for safe schools for all students everywhere.”

The OUT IN THE SILENCE community engagement campaign has so far conducted more than 200 town-hall-style screenings across the country. The film has special appeal and relevance for youth, who often identify with the spirited gay teen who is a central character in the documentary. The campaign has provided free DVDs and outreach materials to over 200 LGBT student groups across the country.


The filmmakers are available for interviews.

For more information and to view a trailer please visit http//

Press Contacts:

Jeremy Lentz, TIFF Executive Director, 917-607-4470,

Joe Wilson, OUT IN THE SILENCE Co-Director, 202-320-4172,

Dean Hamer, OUT IN THE SILENCE Co-Director, 301-326-8355,

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