Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 child sex abuse charges and sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in October of 2012. The documentary Happy Valley will highlight the repercussions of his crimes as well as those people who covered it up, including Joe Paterno, the head football coach at Penn State, resulting in widespread riots and a deep-seated need in that community to find out where they went wrong.
Directed by Amir Bar-Lev (2007’s My Kid Could Paint That), the film was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival back in January of 2014 and has since run the circuit of festivals, garnering generally positive reviews. Instead of focusing on the case and the legal proceedings for the sex abuse charges, the trailer suggests that the movie will instead focus on the Penn State community. The narration points to a search for a reason or an excuse as to how this could happen, while at the same time revealing the guilt that is shared by everyone even tangentially involved.
Sandusky’s crimes date back at least to the 1990s, possibly to the 1970s, and the amount of time this went on means that there were people who could have stopped it. The film shows the reaction to the charges, including riots that occurred following the sentencing and the further punishment of those who did not stop it. Chief among that group was the beloved Paterno, who had his legacy tarnished and died of heart complications shortly after the scandal broke.
Happy Valley will focus on how Penn State will move forward from this tragedy, from removing Sandusky from all of the team’s history, including the championships, to how to go about dealing with anything bordering on the criminal. The trailer suggests that they had been blind to the wider world because of how well the college – and specifically the football program – was doing its time under Paterno and Sandusky. Now, it seems, the film postulates that they cannot ignore the world like before and will question everything about their program from this point on.
The film will be released on November 19th, 2014.