Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hope Over Hate in Northwestern Pennsylvania

Award-winning Gay Rights Documentary
to Screen in Boonies International Film Festival

OUT IN THE SILENCE, an acclaimed documentary that looks at an issue of urgent local and national concern -- fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people -- will be featured in the inaugural Boonies International Film Festival in Warren, PA.

The free screenings are scheduled for Thursday, August 18 at 7:00pm at the Struthers Library Theater and Friday, August 19 at 12:30pm at the Warren Public Library. Filmmaker Joe Wilson, a native of nearby Oil City, and LGBT and Ally residents and natives of Warren, will be on-hand for a post-screening conversation with the audience.

The Warren screenings hold special significance because northwestern Pennsylvania is not only the setting for the stories in OUT IN THE SILENCE, it is home base for the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, the state affiliate of the American Family Association, a national 'traditional values' organization that was recently designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for the “thoroughly discredited falsehoods and demonizing propaganda it pumps out about homosexuality and other sexual minorities.

(The American Family Association of Pennsylvania features prominently in the film as a result of the role it plays in promoting vicious anti-LGBT bigotry in the area and throughout the state.)

OUT IN THE SILENCE captures the remarkable chain of events that unfold when a same-sex wedding announcement and the brutal bullying of a gay teen ignite a ļ¬restorm of controversy and a quest for change in a small Pennsylvania town (Oil City). Tough and wrenching, inspiring and entertaining, this Emmy Award-winning film is challenging audiences across the country, and around the world, to rethink their values and consider how they can help close the gaps that have divided families, friends, churches, and communities on these issues for far too long.

The film was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary.

“The characters in the film are just ordinary people – a kid and his mom, two women who start a business, an Evangelical preacher and his wife – but their stories get at the heart of how anti-LGBT stigma and repression continue to harm individuals and divide communities,” said filmmaker Wilson. “That's why we're using it as a tool for education and activism, especially in small towns and rural communities, like Warren, where there often isn't any visible or organized gay presence at all.”

At the heart of the campaign is a dedication to the idea that small acts of LGBT visibility in places where they are rare, and sometimes unwelcome, help to raise awareness and open-up dialogue in profound new ways and create ripple effects and opportunities to organize for change that go far and wide.

Some of the campaign's events have been targeted by opponents for protests and threats. See “Potter County Library Faced Threats Over Gay Documentary” (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

And this:

More often, however, “they have become forums, a place to meet where there has been no place, to talk where there is a desire to talk but little occasion,” wrote JoAnn Wypijewski in The Nation.

The screenings in Warren are especially timely in light of the recent passage of the Marriage Equality Act in nearby New York, a major milestone in the state's journey toward justice and full inclusion for its LGBT residents, while Pennsylvania, still without any protections for LGBT people in employment, housing or public accommodations and without comprehensive anti-bullying policies to protect youth, gears-up for another divisive battle around an ANTI-marriage equality constitutional amendment being re-introduced this year.

Filmmaker Wilson hopes that federal Congressmen Mike Kelly and Glenn Thompson, State Senators Mary Jo White and Joseph Scarnati, State Representative Kathy Rapp, and other local elected representatives, civic, community and religious leaders will attend the Warren event to express their support for inclusion, fairness and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all people, particularly youth, who call the region home.

He is also hoping that residents from neighboring communities in New York attend in solidarity and to share their more enlightened perspectives on the issues.

For more information about the film, please visit:

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