When Zack Harrington, a gay Oklahoma teenager, committed suicide four years ago, his family was understandably shocked and distraught. A week prior, there had been a heated debate at a city council meeting about the recognition of an LGBT history month. People came out in droves to support both sides, and although the Harringtons live in Norman, a college town that is extremely progressive compared to the rest of the state, there was still a great deal of opposition to the motion.
In the beautiful doc Broken Heart Land, directed by the brother-and-sister duo Jeremy and Randy Stulberg (along with Jeremy's partner Eric Juhola as producer), viewers find out that it’s still unclear whether or not that meeting had a profound effect on Zack. But as his parents suffered through the loss of one of their children, they discovered that their son had kept a secret from them. Zack had known he was HIV-positive for more than a year and had only recently started telling his friends, and that he had known his status when uninformed citizens stated erroneous statistics about HIV/AIDS cases at the city council meeting.
Zack’s mother Nancy recently wrote an essay that details the struggles she faced when trying to become active and tried to involve members of her community. She also reveals how certain obstacles are detrimental to spreading awareness and understanding about important LGBT issues like HIV/AIDS awareness, comprehensive sex education, and LGBT rights, especially in America’s heartland.
Broken Heart Land will air nationwide on June 24 on World Channel's America Reframed program and select PBS channels. Check worldchannel.org/schedule for local listings and visit brokenheartland.com for more information.