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June 17, 2014

Documentary explores impact of gay teen’s suicide

NORMAN — “It’s something that needs to be talked about,” director Jeremy Stulberg said about the issues surrounding his newest documentary, “Broken Heart Land.”

After stumbling upon the story of a Norman family’s tragic loss, brother and sister duo Jeremy and Randy Stulberg teamed up to tell the story of a community divided on the opinions of homosexuality, “highlighting the issues we face as a nation,” Jeremy said.

Produced by Eric Juhola and executive produced by Diana Holtzberg, the film explores the impact of a gay teen’s suicide on his hometown of Norman.

Through Nancy and Van Harrington’s investigation of their son’s untimely death, they discover his haunting secrets documented in a diary — revealing a hidden life of emotional and physical pain.

Still Point Pictures will present “Broken Heart Land” today at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and Wednesday, at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

The free screenings will provide a time for discussion with audience members, directors, producers and the Harringtons — an element to the screening that Jeremy said he feels is crucial to the purpose of the film, creating an opportunity for community dialogue to discuss the issues surrounding Zack’s story.

“We make social issue documentaries,” Jeremy said, “and we thought it was timely, regardless of what side of the issue you’re on.”

After meeting Zack’s parents at a vigil hosted for the teen, Randy and Jeremy realized that this was a story that needed to be told.

For three and a half years, the Stulbergs watched the story unfold through grief, activism and community tension as they kept the camera rolling.

Jeremy said the challenges of making such a personal and emotional film come down to the unpredictability of how it progresses. Jeremy called this their “fly on the wall” approach to filming.

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