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Happy Valley (2014)

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A documentary that observes the year after Pennsylvania State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest on child sex abuse charges.

Director:

Amir Bar-Lev

Writer:

Amir Bar-Lev
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Storyline

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 ... Written by Sundance Film Festival

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The story behind the Penn-State scandal See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated
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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 November 2014 (USA) See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,047, 21 November 2014, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$22,710, 12 December 2014
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Color:

Color
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Connections

Referenced in Sports Jeopardy!: Episode #2.4 (2015) See more »

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User Reviews

A winner doc even if no one in it is one.
3 December 2014 | by jdesandoSee all my reviews

"St. Joe": What Penn State, College Station, and the world called Joe Paterno before the Jerry Sandusky indictment.

No one ever called my town, Columbus, "Happy Valley," but when Ohio State defeats Michigan, it's a happy valley indeed. That euphoria over a football program as successful as Penn State under head coach Joe Paterno with its spell cast so widely is the engine that drives a community to miss the signs of crime such as assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's abuse of young boys.

Amir Bar-Lev's documentary, Happy Valley, covers the historical bases of Sandusky's conviction on multiple counts and Paterno's eventual firing (and death a few months later) for not doing more to bring justice for the abused boys. Even Sandusky's adopted son, Matt, who is the most talking head in the doc, waits until boys have testified against Sandusky to confess he lied—he was abused.

That confession is at the heart of this slowly competent documentary, for it encapsulates the ambivalence of a community so mesmerized by football and its cast of characters that it takes a while to acknowledge some of the actors have feet of clay. Sandusky is easy—he was seen in the showers with boys—but Paterno, the beatified coach (the statue on campus is now gone, as if he were Hussein or Stalin), challenges their understanding of a morality that extends beyond just legally telling a superior about an incident, as Paterno did.

Bar-Lev's is as even-handed as could be: the media is held up to harsh light with its aggressive, predatory pursuit of the sensational; the NCAA is never fair enough; and the University, from president on down, can't get it just right.

And so it goes—this well done doc, despite the sometimes vacant talking heads, shows few participants not caught up in the hoopla. It sure makes me think Ohio State's Jim Tressel dust up was just a skirmish in an enduring battle for the hearts and souls of students and the communities where they live.


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