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Happy Valley

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Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary Happy Valley takes an unflinching look at an iconic American institution in the wake of unthinkable scandal. Nestled in the idyllic area known as Happy Valley lies the town of State College and the home of Penn State University. For over 40 years, Joe Paterno was the celebrated head coach of the school’s storied football team. Lauded not only for his program’s success on the field, but also for students’ achievements in the classroom, Paterno was a revered figure in a town where team loyalty approached nationalistic fervor. Then in November 2011 everything changed when longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with 40 counts of child sex abuse, setting off a firestorm of accusations about who failed to protect the children of Happy Valley. Filmed over the course of the year after Sandusky’s arrest as key players agreed to share their stories, Happy Valley deconstructs the story we think we know to uncover a much more complicated and tragic tale. Director Bar-Lev creates an indelible portrait of a wounded community and an engrossing investigation into the role big time college football played in both the crimes and their aftermath.

Reactions, Awards & Festivals

“A powerful new documentary. “Happy Valley” has a chilling timeliness.”

A.O. Scott

The New York Times

"Thorough, thoughtful and heartbreaking."

Kenneth Turan

Los Angeles Times

“An exceptionally thoughtful, layered and surprising film.”

Justin Chang


"Riveting...turns the tables on the national perception of the scandal.”

Eric Kohn


"A subtle and provocative documentary."

Andrew O’Hehir


Critics’ Picks “Amir Bar-Lev, a skilled chronicler of tricky dynamics, has done an expert job of brewing the controversy to its full potency.”

Joshua Rothkopf

Time Out NY

Sundance Film Festival - Official Selection

Winner! Sarasota Film Festival - Documentary Feature Award

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival - Official Selection

Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival - Official Selection

AFI Docs Documentary Film Festival - Official Selection

Cast & Crew
  • Himself : Matt Sandusky
  • Himself : Jay Paterno
  • Herself : Suzanne Paterno
  • Director : Amir Bar-Lev
  • Producers : John Battsek, Ken Dornstein, Jonathan Koch, Steven Michaels
  • Co-Producer : Ezekiel Morgan
  • Executive Producers : Molly Thompson, Robert Debitetto, David McKillop
  • Editing : Dan Swietlik, David Zieff, Brian Funck
  • Cinematography : Sean Kirby, Nelson Hume
  • Music : H. Scott Salinas
Technical Info
  • Production Year : 2014
  • Release Date : November 19, 2014
  • Countries of Production : USA
  • Languages : English
  • Running Time : 98 Minutes
  • Screen Ratio : 16:9
  • Sound : Dolby
  • Color : Color
  • Rating : Not Rated
DVD/Blu-Ray Special Features

Penn State Campus Q&A with Director Amir Bar-Lev