Movie Review: Out In Silence
Most reactions to the couple’s wedding announcement were based in homophobia, but one response had an altogether different root. It was a plea for support from a mother in Oil City whose son was relentlessly bullied when his peers found out he was gay. She reached out to Joe because he was the only openly gay person from her town that she’d heard of. Soon thereafter, Joe and Dean headed to Oil City, cameras in hand, and began filming what would become an Emmy-Award winning documentary.
Out in the Silence follows its filmmakers, Joe and Dean, as they depict the difficulties faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in small-town America. They attempt to track down the people who felt so strongly about their wedding announcement that they wrote letters opposing it. Only two of these writers, an Evangelical pastor and his wife, agree to be interviewed on film. Rather than serving as the antagonists in the film, however, the couple and the filmmakers ultimately develop a transformative friendship.
The film also follows C.J., the teen whose mother reached out to Joe and Dean for help. After coming out, C.J. goes form being a popular jock to a pariah who is regularly physically and verbally abused by his classmates. This plotline ultimately exposes school administrators’ complicity in the bullying of gay students and documents activists’ subsequent fight for tolerance throughout the school system. Other main characters include a lesbian couple whose renovation of a local theater comes under attack because of their sexuality.
Praised as a “stunning documentary” by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Out in the Silence is no polemic. As described on its website, the film was designed to “promote dialogue and action that will help people on all sides of the issues find common ground.” Equally important, the directors of Out in the Silence view it as a campaign, rather than just a film, and have coordinated over 500 town-hall-like screenings across the country. It is, for them, “part of the movement for fairness, equality and human rights for GLBT people”.