WESTFIELD - The Patterson Library will host a free screening of the film "Out in the Silence" at 7 p.m. Friday.
Funded in part by the Sundance Institute, the movie follows the story of a small Pennsylvanian town confronting a firestorm of controversy ignited by a same-sex wedding announcement in the local newspaper. The documentary is described as illustrating the challenges of being an outsider in a rural community. It takes place in Oil City, Pa., less than two hours from Westfield.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion, including a prominent player in the film, Roxanne Hitchcock, proprietor of the Latonia Theater in Oil City. Also on the panel are the Rev. Steve Aschmann of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie, Deb Christina, lifelong resident and longtime business owner in Westfield, Beth Robson of the Watchfire Alliance, Marvin Henchberger, Executive Director of Western New York Gay and Lesbian Youth Services, Bob Reider of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and Father Gordon De La Vars of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.
Roxanne Hitchcock and Linda Henderson, owners of the Latonia Theater, speak with director Joe Wilson, director of the film “Out In The Silence,” which will be shown Friday at the Patterson Library in Westfield.
The film has won wide recognition for its respectful treatment of both sides of a controversial issue. It covers Joe Wilson's dramatic journey as he is drawn back to his home town by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school. It is a story about the unique challenges of being different in a small town, and the potential for change when the environment for dialogue is created. A subplot is the economic necessity in modern day rural America for tolerating and even encouraging diversity in order to attract and keep talent.
According to Eli Guinnee, library director, the film fits perfectly with the public library goal of promoting knowledge, understanding and mutual respect.
"The film follows a story of firestorm and controversy, but at its heart is a message that when we take the time to get to know each other positive change can occur,'' he said. ''The organizers of this event have done a great job of assembling a distinguished panel and I think the panel will do a great job of carrying on the conversation started by this film."
The free event is scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m. The film runs less than one hour and will be followed by a panel discussion. For more information, call the Patterson Library at 326-2154.