‘Happy Valley’ Documentary to Premiere at Sundance Film Festival

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At least three films focusing on the Jerry Sandusky scandal have been in the works since November 2011. The first film, 365 Days: A Year in Happy Valley, premiered last month, which sought to highlight the Penn State community spirit in a time of recovery. The feature-length film receiving the most attention is the movie starring Al Pacino as Joe Paterno, which is still in the preliminary stages of production.

The next film attempting to capture the Penn State and the State College community will hit center stage next week at Sundance Film Festival, a highly selective annual event that draws thousands of submissions to premiere over the course of ten days. The Tillman Story filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev directed Happy Valley, a nonfiction feature that will focus on “the Penn State University community that was rocked in 2011 by charges of sexual abuse involving former Nittany Lions assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.”

“When you are raised in Happy Valley, you feel as though nothing like this could ever happen there,” said Jonathan Koch, the president of the project’s production company Asylum Entertainment. “This project has such gravity, importance, and significant personal meaning to me, and I am honored that this extraordinary team of filmmakers has joined me to tell the story.”

The film will be shown at the Park City, Utah festival on January 19 at 2:15, January 21 at 1 p.m., January 25 at 6:15 p.m., and January 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Here is the description of the film posted on the Sundance Film Festival website:

“The town of State College, the home of Penn State University, has long been known as Happy Valley, and its iconic figure for more than 40 years was Joe Paterno, the head coach of the school’s storied football team. His program was lauded for not only its success on the field but also its students’ achievements in the classroom. And Paterno took on mythic national stature as ‘Saint Joe.’

“But then, in November 2011, everything came crashing down. Longtime Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse, setting off a firestorm of accusations about who failed to protect the children of Happy Valley. Was Sandusky’s abuse an ‘open secret’ in the town? Did Coach Paterno and the Penn State administration value their football program more than the lives of Sandusky’s victims?

“Filmed over the course of the year after Sandusky’s arrest as key players in the scandal agreed to share their stories, Happy Valley deconstructs the story we think we know to uncover a much more complicated and tragic tale. Director Amir Bar-Lev creates a parable of guilt, redemption, and identity crisis for a small town caught in the glare of the national spotlight.”

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About Author

Jessica Tully is a senior majoring in journalism and political science from Wexford, Pa. She is one of three members of the Tully family currently enrolled at Penn State. Jessica has also written for USA TODAY, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Daily Collegian.

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