Campus Safety • Sexual Assault Prevention
Sociology of Sports • Gender Studies • Criminal Justice
2014. Director Amir Bar-Lev.
98 Minutes. Includes Captions.


What happened at Penn State has repercussions far and wide, not only on other college campuses but throughout American society. HAPPY VALLEY is an award-winning documentary about the Penn State sexual abuse scandal that challenges students to examine what this tragedy means for all of us. Is there such a thing as an innocent bystander? How do we protect young people from sexual abuse? And most importantly what kind of society do we want to live in?


Penn State University lies at the heart of an area long 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 for its students’ achievements in the classroom, and Paterno took on mythic national stature as “Saint Joe.” But in November 2011, everything came crashing down on Paterno and Penn State. Former Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse, many of which took place on the university campus. Filmed over the course of the year after Sandusky’s arrest, HAPPY VALLEY chronicles the ensuing firestorm of accusations about who failed to protect the children of Happy Valley. Director Amir Bar-Lev takes a multidimensional look at this complicated and tragic tale and creates a parable of guilt, responsibility, and identity for a small town caught in the glare of the national spotlight.

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The Penn State abuse scandal: athletics, fandom, and campus sexual assault
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Reviews & Quotes

Reviewed by John Hiett, formerly with Iowa City Public Library

"This documentary examines the effects of these episodes on the individuals, the families, the campus, and the wider community. It explores deep waters via access to network archives, the families, and one of the victims, Sandusky's adopted son. As a play-by-play recounting of this full-blown tragedy, Happy Valley succeeds spectacularly."

LA Times

Reviewed by Kenneth Turan

"When you have a story that has the kind of explosive momentum these stories do, you have to scratch your head and ask why people find this so interesting, what gives the story traction.'Bar-Lev did more than that; he was open to exploring the surprisingly various points of view people had about the ramifications of the Sandusky situation. Happy Valley is especially good at revealing a mass desire to shift blame, showing how everyone the scandal touched wanted to focus on the aspect that made them the least responsible.For the Penn State Board of Trustees, for instance, that meant distancing themselves as far as possible from the people who were involved. Paterno, to the continued shock of his family and the student body, was thrown under the bus despite his decades of services and summarily fired, as was the university president."

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