Monday, January 31, 2011

Documentary About Bullying & Homophobia in Venango County Opens Inaugural Human Rights Watch Film Festival in Washington, DC

(Washington, DC, January 19, 2011) – The first DC Human Rights Watch Film Festival will screen five works with distinctive human rights themes each Wednesday from February 2 to March 2, 2011, Human Rights Watch announced today.

The festival, a co-presentation of Human Rights Watch and The West End Cinema, is designed as a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.

“The DC Festival brings a reflection of the condition of the world in which we live to one of the world's most important human rights stages: the capital of the nation that has long sought to promote human rights around the globe,” said John Biaggi, director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

The opening night feature on February 2, is “Out in the Silence,” a documentary by Washington, DC-based filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer that looks at an issue of urgent human rights concern: the need for full inclusion, justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States.

The documentary follows the story of a small American town (in Venango County) confronting a firestorm of controversy ignited by a same-sex wedding announcement in the local paper, and the subsequent brutal bullying of a gay teen. It challenges audiences to rethink their values and consider how they can help close the gaps that have divided families, friends, and communities on these issues.

“In light of the public debates over issues such as military service and marriage equality, not-to-mention anti-gay bullying, teen suicides, and safe schools, the screening of this film in Washington, DC could not be more timely,” said Boris Dittrich, acting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender program director at Human Rights Watch.

Produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, “Out in the Silence” premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York. It won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and has received praise from critics and festivals worldwide.

The film's directors say they are most interested in using it as a vehicle for grass-roots outreach, education, and civic engagement, particularly in small towns and rural communities where there often isn't any visible or organized LGBT presence at all. Wilson and Hamer have conducted more than 300 town-hall-style screening events in libraries and other public venues across the country, reaching nearly every county in Pennsylvania, and doing rural tours of Oregon, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

“The characters in the film are just ordinary people – a kid and his mom, an Evangelical preacher and his wife, a lesbian couple who start a business – but their stories get at the heart of how anti-LGBT stigma and repression play out and continue to harm individuals in such communities,” Hamer said.

“We're hoping that this Human Rights Watch screening here in DC, from which so much of the harmful anti-LGBT rhetoric and activities emanate, will shine new light on these issues and help people, particularly our elected officials and other high-profile leaders, begin to find common ground to end the madness once and for all,” Wilson said

Wilson, Hamer, and Dittrich, will be at The West End Cinema, 2301 M Street NW, for a post-screening dialogue with the audience.

Visit for more information.

For a press kit and to see a film trailer:



“A stunning documentary” -Philadelphia Inquirer

“Film Critic's Pick-of-the-Week” -New York times

“Tough. Wrenching. Inspiring.” - OUT Magazine

“Most moving are the stories of heterosexuals who transform because of their relationships with GLBT people.” -American Library Association

“Though the film is made by two gay men, it doesn't seek to promote a “gay agenda” or to stereotype the “religious right.” It's simply a matter of trying to understand attitudes in small-town America.”
-Christianity Today

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long live the American Family Association!