State College

Documentary screening looks to get people talking about gun violence

Theater etiquette dictates that there’s no talking during the movie.

On Tuesday night, WPSU and Penn State’s Talking Together About Guns initiative are teaming up to remind you that after the lights go up, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of post-film chit chat.

In fact, a little freewheeling conversation will actually go a long way toward breaking down a few of the questions posed by the documentary “The Armor of Light.”

A veteran of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival circuit, the film tracks an Evangelical minister grappling with the complexities of gun violence and will screen at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the WPSU Studios at Innovation Park.

People will talk — and with any luck, a few of them will be on the discussion panel presided over by Matthew Jordan, an associate professor of media studies at Penn State.

“I believe that a culture and community is created through conversation,” Jordan said.

That conversation isn’t always forthcoming, though — especially when it comes to the topic of guns.

At its best, film can serve as a great opening line, an artier variation on “some weather we’re having today, huh?”

Or, in a more academic sense:

“I think what it does very well is dramatize abstract issues in ways that are palpable,” Jordan said.

Ben Wideman is the campus pastor of 3rd Way Collective, a ministry of the University Mennonite Church that’s centered on faith-inspired work for justice. He’s also one of the four panelists slated to join Jordan after the film on Tuesday night.

Wideman hasn’t seen the film yet, but has more than a passing familiarity with the myriad of different beliefs that can exist within a single tradition.

In his experience, words can work wonders in such situations.

“It starts to break down that division a little bit and starts to create empathy,” Wideman said.

Lacey Wallace, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Penn State Altoona, is one of the pastor’s fellow panelists.

She’s heading into Tuesday evening with a slight advantage over Wideman — which mainly boils down to having already seen the documentary.

Wallace responded to the way the filmmakers were able to navigate the overlap between pro-life and pro-gun.

“By tackling something that seems like a contradiction, the film helps to break down myths about who owns a gun and why. The film forces viewers to think about their own core values and how these sometimes contradict,” Wallace said.

The taped screening and panel discussion will air from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday on WPSU-TV.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

If you go

What: “The Armor of Light” screening

When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: WPSU Studios, 100 Innovation Blvd, University Park

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