On an early autumn afternoon, gay teen Zack Harrington killed himself with a gunshot to the head at his parent’s ranch in Norman, Oklahoma. One week earlier, Zack allegedly attended a local city council meeting in support of a proposal for LGBTQ History Month. When the floor opened up for public comment, some community members made controversial statements equating being gay with the spread of diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
Against the backdrop of a town bitterly divided on the issue of homosexuality, Zack’s parents, both conservative Republicans and military veterans, are forced to reconcile their own social and political beliefs with their son’s death. Determined to understand him, they discover a diary, which paints a portrait of a boy in crisis, and a secret that Zack kept hidden for almost two years. It leads them to some painful conclusions about their son’s life and death.
“Broken Heart Land,” a documentary that tells this story and addresses, according to filmmakers, issues of HIV/AIDS awareness, lack of comprehensive sex education and LGBT rights in the American heartland, will air on PBS’s The World Channel Tuesday evening as a part of the America ReFramed series. It will also be screened in a free event at the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday November 1 at 10:00 a.m. as a part of a multi-city tour through all states that, filmmakers say, legally restrict public educators in how they discuss homosexuality in schools.
Filmmakers say they are attempting to bridge the gap created by these policies by educating these communities on how to access accurate and helpful resources, and strengthen support networks for those who are HIV+, contemplating suicide, or disconnected from their families. They say they intend to appeal to local communities and families to have open dialogue and spark conversation about these issues.
We will be speaking with Director of the film, Jeremy Stulberg, and Zack's parents, Nancy and Van Harrington on Access Utah Tuesday