Ittai Orr, CC’12, On “Breaking the Silence”

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Two weeks ago, Ittai Orr finished a year and a half of work on a documentary about the lives of LGBTQ teenagers in his hometown of Tri-Cities, Washington. Bwog checked in with Ittai about making the film which is titled “Breaking the Silence.”

Tell us why you decided to make the documentary, and how you went about getting started.

The prospect of going home for the summer in the middle of nowhere inspired in me a kind of frenzied panic. I just came out of the closet that year (I was a freshman) and the last thing I wanted was to be trapped in the stifling conservative desert of eastern Washington State while all my friends were stepping off planes in exotic jungles, building schools and writing for Arianna Huffington. So knowing that there were some very urgent stories to tell about gay people there, I made a few phone calls and started work on this documentary using my own camera.

What are your aspirations for this documentary? Who do you want to watch it?

I want people to see this online and become more aware of the obstacles gay people face as they confront this country’s stubborn past, but I also want them to see how much hope there is, how much it helps to come out of the closet, speak out and slowly chip away at gay shame rather than turn away imagining someone else will take care of it. I think everyone should see this, even if they don’t live in rural America, because issues of sexuality are still a problem for people everywhere, even on the supposedly evolved coasts and all over the world.

Your finishing the documentary now aligns with a wave of homophobic violence much closer to Columbia than the Tri-Citiesafter focusing so much on Tri-Cities homophobia, what was it like to learn of all the violence so close to us? What can Columbians do to make sure that homophobia and violence doesn’t get any closer to our campus?

Hearing about the awful tragedy of Tyler Clementi just makes clear something I’ve suspected and known for a long time: self-hatred, depression and fear are rampant among LGBT people everywhere and it’s no coincidence that we are disproportionately harassed. I know everyone thinks “it’s not me doing it!” but it doesn’t have to be overt. It can be as small as a joke you think is edgy, or the way you dismiss gay people who are acting too “femme,” it’s in the stereotypes and expectations and the subtle us/them paradigm that gay people are sometimes also guilty of perpetuating. And that’s still not taking into account the issue of gay minorities, which adds another dimension of prejudice to the picture. Release yourself from your own constraints and you’ve already taken a step toward releasing others. And that goes for closeted gay people too; let yourself come out already! But apart from change our attitudes, we can put up those pink safe-space posters and attend gay events. Call people out when they do something homophobic and don’t be afraid to encourage your friends to just say “fuck it,” come out and be proud of who they are.

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  1. Anonymous  

    um...where can we watch it?!?

  2. Haha  

    I'll bet he made this documentary so he could put it on his resume as "internship".

    woo vote me downn.

  3. Anonymous  

    Nice job Ittai!

  4. This

    Really Great. What an interesting and meaningful way to spend a summer. I bet the kids at Vista are really proud. Thanks, Ittai.

  5. Minifridge  

    I was shrooming in a park when I looked around and saw nothing but gays, scariest moment of my life

  6. yayyyy  

    ittai! good work we love you

  7. can anyone say?


  8. it doesnt matter

    whether its gay or straight you still cant have sex in a you to get angry about this and assume the police are bigoted is absurd

    • Ittai

      Ok, yes, no one should have sex in the park. But I think I included that section because it's troubling and problematic. I want it to raise questions. Why were they having sex in the park? I never call the officer bigoted, in fact the only thing I say about all of this is that it's unfortunate that they were caught by undercover cops pretending to be cruising, which is a tactic used to trap prostitutes too (by the way, what's the difference between that and this? Does it matter?). Also, what about the straight sex in the park? And why did this reporter nearly accost that poor man at his home?
      What I want is for people to look at this and really have to work to figure out what's just, what's human and whether or not we are really "born free."

      • actually

        regardless of whether someone is gay or not, reporters will still go to the accused's house and interrogate them, have you watched the news in the new york area? this is a common practice..

        Secondly, gay or not the cops have every right to catch people doing illegal things, so it doesn't matter whether one is gay or straight...breaking the law (aka sex in public) should be a punishable offense.

        Just because I rob a store and there's a cop pretending to be a customer and I get caught, should I not get in trouble, because I was tricked by the police officer?

        Trust me, I'm pro-gay marriage and have many gay friends, but many of your arguments just don't hold water. That's what I find fault with.

        • Anonymous

          "maybe you're soulless?" come on. that's the same rhetoric that simple minded people would use to dismiss some of your talking points!

          also, i have to admit, i didn't watch this entire film, but the opening part was dripping with with needless sarcasm. the narrator pointed out, that their "notable landmarks" are a "walmart, a local mall, some very large churches and this type of sage brush." before getting to the point, the film criticized their income level, their religion, and their geographic identity. How has walmart, a lazy shopping mall, and some sage hurt members of the lgbtq community? after all that, what really got me was the statement "the fact that society with all of its complications and ills has largely been rejected." these people definitely haven't largely rejected society. they seem to be living in some type of order. don't get me wrong, i think you bring up a serious problem, but two minutes in, all this film has done is convey a distaste for several relatively unthreatening ways these people identify themselves.

  9. Wrong, asshole

    What exactly here seems pretended? It all looks pretty real to me. Also apparently you can't speak English and I doubt if you even go to this school.

  10. Anonymous

    I'm from the same area and I probably wouldn't characterize SE Washington the same way as the film did. There are Wal-Mart's and malls everywhere, not just Tri-Cities; and where there are Mormons, they typically have a Temple too. But, as you point out the region does have some poor attitudes toward homosexuals, but as I was watching I was surprised to see the level of outreach in Tri-town. Trust me that doesn't exist elsewhere in the vicinity, or in places like Utah, or Uganda for that matter.

  11. Michelle  

    great job ittai!

  12. It is

    Harder to be straight than gay these days... Don't ask, and don't tell. Fuck this documentary.

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