I was so excited for the opportunity to interview Amir Bar-Lev but before the interview began, it felt as though it was over. I’ll share more about the experience soon but for now here’s a list of the questions I asked. Somehow time didn’t permit, and after the interview I was left wanting to know more about what happened at Happy Valley … that’s not to say I didn’t gain so much from the interview, just I’m left wondering and wanting to understand. It’s as though his film was a primer, or a basis that will serve as a launch for me to want to know more about what really happened. Below is a list of questions I had shared with Amir Bar-Lev just prior to my interviewing him. The feature article has been published over at www.doublegsports.com:
Just know I did ask the questions … here is a copy of my email I had shared
prior to the interview
I am writing on behalf of Double G Sports regarding the film, Happy Valley. Before I provide you with a list of questions I have for you about the film, let me first share a brief introduction about myself which I think is appropriate given the nature of the film.
—- The name I use for all of my writing is ‘Michelle Sportsx’ and I write an ‘Opinion’ column for Double G Sports, but I am also the founder of a non-profit organization that has a sole mission to educate about misuse of power. This organization was founded in 2002, and I have been working ‘under cover’ if you will to share via social media, and my writings about the importance of mutual respect. I have a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University, an undergraduate degree also in criminal justice, and am working toward my PhD in Public Policy Administration/ with a specialization in law. Besides writing for Double G Sports, I also write for http://www.verysexysports.com which is a domain I own, that works to help redefine ‘sexy’ and you will see my work all about domestic violence awareness, child abuse, racism etc., at that site.
While there are several variables that would serve as the fundamental primer for my doing what I’m doing right now, perhaps the main one is that I was brought up in a world where something such as what happened at Happy Valley, happened in my family. My father was arrested when I was twelve years old and subsequently charged with sexual assault against my sister, and this and the residual factors have undoubtably shaped my life’s work.
Scott Paterno, and other PSU alum have reached out to me in the past and begged me to write about their side of the story, and I’ve had several exchanges with Scott. Several PSU alum follow me on Twitter [ @Sportsxmichelle ] and have pleaded with me to listen. You will see at my site, I’ve actually written about media slant and bias, in an article called ‘Twelve Angry Journalists’ and I am often very vocal about my dislike for media hype, and I educate about how one should look beyond the surface in an attempt to gain the totality of circumstances.
That being said … let me now begin to share my questions about the film.
1) First let me say, that I was anxious to watch the film. Given the nature of the topic, and given my association with PSU alum and previous conversations with Scott Paterno, I wanted to see somebody take a look at the story with an objective lens. Do you think you were able to capture the story with an objective lens, or do you think that you have any bias, inherent or otherwise?
2) I would like to know more about what prompted you to do this film. How and when did you first decide to do it, and what variables lead up to your taking this project on?
3) I did not grow up with any true allegiance to college football, the way some communities do. However, in my adult life I have developed a strong connection with college football and coincidentally the first game I went to see was the Penn State game against University of Michigan, which took place last year. I was there to show support of Penn State because I felt the sanctions were unfair, in that they were penalizing the kids more so than those who might have been responsible for the crimes. Do you have any opinion on the sanctions that were handed down by the NCAA against the university?
4) The student in the film who was upset about everything, mentioned that he was saddened when he saw the student names on the back of the jerseys. In addition, there seemed to be mention of the community needing to attach itself to a new leader after Joe Paterno was no longer the coach. What thoughts, if any, do you have about names being on the back of jerseys for those who play college football?
5) Many have said that there were politics involved, and that the non-profit organization that Mr. Sandusky was involved with, Second Mile was ignored by prosecutors. Do you think that this is a fair assessment? Do you think that Penn State was in a sense a scape goat? Likewise, do you think that Joe Paterno was, too?
6) Turning now to the media, and how it covers a story, what do you think about the initial coverage about this scandal? Do you have any thoughts, at all about how the media should have or could have done a better job?
7) What was your overall goal of this movie?
8) Do you think you accomplished what you set out to do and are you happy with the film?
9) When I was a child, I was in a similar situation as Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son in that I was a witness to something horrific and I was going to be expected to testify. I remember to this day, knowing that once on the stand I would tell the truth, regardless of who might turn their back on me. The situation I was involved in, never made it to trial, because the victim dropped the charges and at that time the State of New Jersey did not have laws that would allow it to prosecute the way it does today. Do you have any thoughts about how this case was handled by the State of Pennsylvania? For example, if the state agencies were contacted and nothing was found to be so disturbing, why was that? In other words, why no media focus on the state agencies dropping the ball, and why was all the media attention on Penn State and subsequently, Joe Paterno?
10) There is a lot of discussion about moral and legal responsibility. Obviously, moral obligations and legal obligations differ and both can be abstract and denial can play a huge role. At one point, in the film, Joe Paterno’s one son talks about the radio broadcasters and how their hurtful manners can be bothersome. He also talks about the role of denial. Do you think that the Paterno family is in denial, when it comes to wanting to accept that their father could have done more?
11) The part of the film where the ‘conversation with Joe Paterno’ happened over the weekend and then a decision was made not to do more, was very important to me. This is something that I have heard about before from Scott Paterno. I would say that I think the media and perhaps prosecutors did run with this and make it what they wanted, without any true appreciation for the reality that this conversation could have involved several things. That being said, I do think that through a retrospective lens Joe Paterno did wish he had done more, and perhaps he should have. Do you have any thoughts on this at all?
12) Regarding the statue of Joe Paterno that was taken down, I remember this happening. I remember reading about the sculptor of the statue and about how much work he had put into creating it. Your film focused on the mural more so than the statue, was there any reason for this? Do you think that there is a place for the statue now, either at Penn State or elsewhere? For example, should it maybe be donated or on display somewhere that might serve as a helpful agent for victimization? Do you think this is at all possible?
There are so many things I would like to ask you but I realize you must be very busy, and so I don’t wish to continue any more at this time. Questions about your life, your work, your desire to read the newspaper from front to back, your thoughts on what makes something art are all questions I would want to share with you. I would also love to share more about my work someday, given the opportunity as victimization, the issues pertaining to domestic violence, brain trauma, and whether a child who was abused could actually ever grow up to over come, are all questions I’m pondering at this moment. I hope that I am able to convey how much appreciation I have for your work, in this email. I feel blessed for the opportunity to be able to share this email with you.
[ Note the photo of Penn State was on their Facebook page ]