Wednesday, March 5th, 2014


Although Amir Bar-Lev’s new documentary is about the sexual abuse that infamous Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky carried out on scores of young boys over a 15 year period, the focus is less on the crimes themselves but about the whole culture surrounding them and the devastating effects on that college town.  
Initially there was a controversial wall of silence about this molester’s activities that not only shielded him for many years from the authorities but allowed him to keep on molesting and raping the boys. The knowledge that Head Coach Joe Paterno simply failed to report Sandusky’s actions was cause for him to be unceremoniously fired from the University, an action that was not applauded by the local community in any way, but ferociously publicly condemned.

Bar-Lev strove diligently to present his investigation in the most non-partisan manner but the sheer passion and indignity of most of the outraged  local community unwittingly painted a very biased picture. Their beloved Paterno had coached the football team for decades and had made it one of the most successful in the country with its countless wins and trophies.  As his fame and success grew he turned down countless lucrative offers to coach elsewhere but he chose to remain at Penn. and his loyalty was rewarded by the slavish devotion of seemingly the entire town.

The fact that Paterno was considered not just a hero but more like a Saint meant to all his legions of fans, he could do no wrong.  And when he was dismissed all the students actually rioted on the campus and their anger was directed completely at the media for their part in exposing the crimes, with not even a hint of disgust at the gravity of the damage that Paterno had continued to allow to happen on his watch. Football they all infer very loudly, is far more important than life.
The most devastating story is that of Sandusky’s adopted son Matt. Now married and with a family of his own, Matt had initially been vocal in supporting his parents, but when the shocking details of his father’s activities came to light, he decided to speak up and tell his story too.  It took a great deal of courage to go public with the fact that after Sandusky had rescued him from a poverty-stricken broken home he had ritually abused him right through his childhood.  Matt is one of the very few people that came through these events with any shred of decency.
Paterno was diagnosed with cancer and died soon after his dismissal. His family were to be sympathised with as they were now left having to deal with all the aftermath. especially as Sandusky’s Trial was starting and they were very much in the public eye again. However our affinity with them is soon tested as they considered their father the actual victim of all this (and not the abused boys?) and they focus all their attention on hiring an independent investigator to try and effectively diminish Paterno’s portion of the blame.

Wherever Bar-Levi’s cameras went in the community they encountered sheer unbridled anger which was universally somehow pitted against the rest of the world  ……. and the media in particular. It was as if there had been a giant conspiracy simply to ruin Penn State and thus punishing them all. Not that any of them were in anyway responsibly for either Sandusky or Paterno’s action, but it is odd that not once did anyone offer any words of remorse. Their unfaltering faith in Paterno seemed almost religious, but then again, there are many similarities in this story as to the constant flow of tales of Pedophile Catholic Priests.

Lest we forget, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of child abuse on June 22nd 2012.  No one will ever know how many others went unreported/undetected.
Unmissable documentary.
P.S. The title ironically is the name of the  area where the Campus is.
P.P.S. Al Pacino is already shooting a feature film based on Paterno’s story.

Posted by queerguru  at  22:33



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