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June 18, 2014

Packed audience comes out to view social issue documentary

NORMAN — Social issue documentarians previewed their film to a full audience Tuesday evening at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History to raise awareness for the LGBT community.

Producer Eric Juhola introduced the film, “Broken Heart Land,” to an audience of friends, family members and supporters of the Harrington family in the museum’s auditorium.

The film is centered around the suicide of gay teenager Zack Harrington and the grief his family endured, but producer Jeremy Stulberg said these personal instances within this one family’s story frame broader themes that need to be addressed.

“Our intention is to create a welcoming environment for everybody,” Juhola said as he opened the screening.

Vignettes of Zack’s diary entries, found by his mother after his death, framed his struggles as a gay teenager in a community divided on the opinions of homosexuality, leaving entries behind that illustrated the emotional struggles and thoughts of an individual in the shadows of political tensions.

On October 5, 2010, Zack’s father, Van, found his son slumped over in their Norman home and said he knew something was terribly wrong. This documentary follows the family’s journey through grief and politics that resulted in a family of newly inspired activists.

After meeting the Stulberg siblings and directors of the film, Van said a family discussion decided the fate of the documentary once the idea was introduced.

“Almost immediately, I wished I could share this,” Van said, about his family’s experience. “When they came and asked us if we wanted to do the film, that opened up a door for me. As an individual, you don’t have the power to do that. It takes an effort of everybody close to you, and they gave us the greatest opportunity.”

Zack’s parents said this experience has strengthened their faith and changed their political views. Raised in Norman and on Republican ideals, Nancy said Zack’s incident challenged the ideals she had known all her life.

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