It was like the community briefly relived the moment when it was announced publicly that Joe Paterno was let go from his head football coaching position at Penn State.
A gasp was heard at the State Theatre on Friday at the 7 p.m. showing of the “Happy Valley” documentary, during a scene where a press conference was called to announce the firing of the longtime coach.
At that moment in November 2011, the crowd at the press conference also responded with a gasp.
“I wasn’t ready to hear that all over again,” said Penn State senior Daniel Weaver. “I remember hearing it on the news a couple years ago, but seeing that footage again sparked a memory I like to forget.”
The documentary recounts how the community responded to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was charged with 52 counts of sex crimes against children, and later found guilty of 45 counts.
“Happy Valley” premiered at the Sundance Film Fest in January, and made its debut in State College on Friday with two sold-out evening shows, followed by a question and answer session with director Amir Bar-Lev, and producers Jonathan Koch and Mark Lima, both State College natives.
And with it came mixed reviews from viewers, but a common appreciation for film that people said they think will help clear up misconceptions about their school’s pride and community support.
“Sandusky was like the one bad Christmas light that ruined the whole row,” said Daryl Lett, a lifelong Centre County resident who attended the show. “We need to work collectively to restore an entire college and community reputation that’s so much more than this scandal, and I think the documentary will help people get an understanding of what happened.”
State College resident John Hamilton said he felt that the film lost credibility by featuring Matt Sandusky, the adoptive son of Jerry Sandusky, and attorney Andrew Shubin, who Hamilton said were “liars.”
Matt Sandusky first told police he was never sexually abused by his adoptive father, but later came out saying that he actually was.
Shubin represented nine of Sandusky’s victims, including Matt Sandusky.
The documentary looked at the year after Sandusky was charged.
“I want a followup of the documentary,” said Penn State freshman Michelle Barto, who added that she would have liked to see more students represented in the film. “There is so much of this story that’s not told.”
But Bar-Lev told the CDT there won’t be a sequel, despite repercussions of the scandal that remain in progress.
He said his mission in creating the documentary was to look at how the community attempted to move forward, and less about Sandusky’s charges, and also leave the audience with questions.
“It’s not a piece of journalism, it’s a piece of art,” Bar-Lev said.