A new documentary detailing the impact the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal had on the State College community takes a hard look at the concept of forgiveness.
The first screening of the film “365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley” was held Friday night at The State Theatre as part of a red carpet premiere.
In the film, there is a comparison between the aftermath of the Sandusky child abuse scandal to that of the 2006 Nickel Mines Amish school shooting. After the shooting, family members of the children killed and injured embraced the killer’s family and displayed their faith’s emphasis on forgiveness.
The film highlights that forgiveness and suggests those connected to the Sandusky situation, including victims, consider forgiveness over revenge, even in the form of legal action.
Attorney James Kimmel, author of “Suing for Peace,” says in the film, “We’re under the perceived wisdom of thousands of years that the best way of resolving conflicts is to seek justice … to retaliate.”
Kimmel goes on to say, “forgive and this all goes away … it is a choice … ‘unhappy valley’ could stop at any time … (those who are) demanding that the few people who made things wrong now make it right … at some point they’ll wake up and go I don’t even remember what all of the fighting was about.”
A preview of the film will be held in roughly 13 cities with week-long screenings in Los Angeles and New York. Depending on how film is received, it will either be released to theaters or go to digital distribution.
Before the screening, director Erik Proulx and producer Eric Porterfield talked to the news media about production, saying the documentary answers questions the mainstream media has ignored
When crew members arrived to State College from New York and Los Angeles, Proulx says they quickly thought, “Maybe the story I was given on ESPN wasn’t the whole story.”
In fact, it took Porterfield’s persistent emails and calls to “convince me the story I was hearing in mainstream media wasn’t accurate,” says Proulx. Eventually, Proulx, who directed “Lemonade: Detroit,” got on board with production.
The crew set out to capture for one year how the crimes of a former Penn State football coach and international media frenzy impacted the community.
The official 365 days of documenting started Sept. 1, 2012; however, the crew started filming shortly before that date and continued beyond the one-year mark.
“We could’ve kept filming for another year and still not had the full story … Things are presented as absolute and really what’s absolute is nowhere near accurate until you let it unfold,” says Proulx.
So what did the mainstream media get wrong? Proulx and Porterfield say the media’s account of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s role in the Sandusky child abuse scandal was significantly inaccurate.
“They just got it so wrong that you have to call them out … We’re going to keep after them. You have to … People just screwed this up so badly,” Porterfield says.
A large part of the film focuses on how the Sandusky scandal impacted Paterno. Penn State’s board of trustees voted unanimously to terminate Paterno after nearly 46 years arguing Paterno should have called police after a graduate assistant told him he saw Sandusky with a young boy in the Lasch Football Building showers.
Many in the film argue Paterno’s termination was premature.
Sandusky, the former Penn State defensive coordinator, was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse, for which he is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years.