The Silence at Bethany

Director: Joel Oliansky
Screenwriters: Joyce Keener

Institute History

  • 1988 Sundance Film Festival


In 1939, young Ira Martin (Mark Moses) returns from the city to the Pennsylvania farm country where his family once worked and lived. Having sown some wild oats, Ira is now looking for focus and meaning in his Mennonite roots, and is welcomed into the tight-knit community, especially so by Pauline (Susan Wilder), an attractive and available young woman and her father (Dakin Matthews), a practical, fair, and benevolent farmer.

Expecting stability, Ira finds turmoil in the form of a despotic church bishop (Tom Dahlgren), who also happens to be Pauline’s uncle. The conflict centers around one member of the community who has taken out a bank loan to start a dairy business. In order to succeed, the farmer must deliver and sell his milk on Sunday. Without some flexibility from church elders concerning the observation of the Sabbath, he will be forced into bankruptcy. Modest Ira is suddenly thrust into the middle of a power struggle between the orthodox and more liberal element of his church. He is forced to make some serious choices which will have severe consequences for both himself and his church.

— Lawrence Smith

Screening Details

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