A&E IndieFilms, Asylum Entertainment, Passion Pictures,

Matt Sandusky, The town of State College, Pa.

Documentary filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev arrived in Happy Valley (the nickname for the little town in northeast Pennsylvania called State College) along with a slew of news cameras as the breaking story of Jerry Sandusky’s (an assistant coach in Penn State football) arrest on charges of child molestation. The story was huge and dominated the news for a few days and weeks, but Amir stayed. He spent over a year in State College documenting the changes, the fall-out, and the attempts to recover from this regional tragic story. He focuses on Matt Sandusky, a young man who was taken in and adopted by Jerry’s family as a child, and through the turmoil it caused him and his loss of both a Mother and a Father through the ordeal as he tried to decide whether to tell his story at the trial or to protect his father. It’s a complex story and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye initially. This documentary does a pretty decent job of telling the story while trying to be fair to the people involved.

This film really made me sad. My heart was broken at the end. I don’t have sympathy for the people involved, but the entire thing was tragic. Penn State was one of the most successful football teams in college history. Joe Paterno was the coach and father figure for the town and celebrated as a great hero as he built up the reputation of the winning-est college football coach in history. Joe knew there was something terribly wrong with Jerry Sandusky. It was obvious that something was wrong with him, and it was obvious that Joe didn’t even like Jerry very much. When it became obvious that Jerry was doing some really bad things, Joe went to the leaders of Penn State and told them what he knew. They decided not to do anything about it to avoid harming the school’s reputation. Everybody looked away. Jerry loved kids, figuratively and literally. He rescued so many young men who were suffering from poverty and broken families. He started a foundation to help them, and sent many of them through college at his expense. But was he grooming them for his perverse desires. It would appear so. Meanwhile, in a little town like State College there isn’t much to do but celebrate Football, and the school became known for it, and Joe Paterno became the king of the town with a stellar reputation. When Jerry fell, and the stories came out, the first thing everyone wanted to know is how much Joe Paterno knew, and when he knew it. Joe didn’t go to the authorities which he knew he should have done, but he was also very sick at the time. Joe died from cancer long before the trial. The school was still concerned about their reputation and who better to pin it on than a guy who was already dying. The school terminated him and tried to wipe his name out completely even tearing down any reference to the man. This was probably to satisfy the NCAA that they had dealt with the problem and Jerry was in jail and Joe Paterno had been slaughtered on the altar of shame. But the NCAA wasn’t done. They decided it was necessary to punish the school and the students as much as possible. This they did with a huge hammer, wiping out all of Joe Paterno’s wins and dropping him from the winning-est coach to third place. Is it a tragedy that the school lost good students, had their reputation destroyed in a way that they will never recover from, and creating a huge divide between those who want to remember the guy who did so much to put them on the map because of some guy that had a desire for boys? Did Joe do enough by going to the school authorities and expecting them to handle it, and not going to the authorities. I’m sure Joe would even admit that he was wrong. He passed the buck upstream and that was a cowardly thing to do, but who are the guys who sat on that and did nothing? I have no idea. They’re hiding behind the curtain and threw Joe out for the media wolves. Still when the film was done, I just felt sadness for everyone touched by this. It’s a shame they could not have put a stop to this years before. There are people who hated this story, but those I fear are mostly those who hate football, or who are just unable to get past the horrible crimes Jerry Sandusky committed. I can truly understand that. But it was a shame. I thought this was an excellent look at the whole situation and I found it extremely interesting. You may not, and we all have our own tastes. I am glad I watched it.

EdG – EdsReview Dot Com – A Movie Review Blog



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