TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AFTER WILLOWBROOK
-Jeffrey Lyons, WNBC TV
'UNFORGOTTEN' IS UNFORGETTABLE!"
-David Hunter, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
-Kevin Thomas, LOS ANGELES TIMES
"HEARTFELT... THOUGHT PROVOKING!"
-Andrew Hindes, VARIETY
"***1/2* POWERFUL! POIGNANT!
A VITAL AND HEARTBREAKING FILM! DEEPLY MOVING AND ULTIMATELY AN UPPER, SHOWING HOW THE HUMAN SPIRIT CAN ALWAYS BOUNCE BACK!
-Bill Hoffman, NEW YORK POST
-Dave Kehr, DAILY NEWS
"A PLEA FOR TREATING PEOPLE HUMANELY!"
-Stephen Holden, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"*** HEARTBREAKINGLY ELOQUENT! SHOULD BE REQUIRED VIEWING FOR OVER ZEALOUS POLITICOS SWINGING BUDGET AXES AT STATE-FUNDED HEALTH CARE!"
-Ken Fox, TV GUIDE ENTERTAINMENT NETWORK
-Abbie Nolan, VILLAGE VOICE
"POWERFUL BEYOND BELIEF! "UNFORGOTTEN" WILL TEAR YOUR HEART OUT!"
-Ed Koch, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST
-Matt Seitz, NEW YORK PRESS
LIGHTS PICTURES PRESENTS
IN ASSOCIATION WITH AUGUSTINE ASSOCIATES
A FILM BY DANNY FISHER AND JACK FISHER
UNFORGOTTEN: TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AFTER WILLOWBROOK
NARRATED BY DANNY AIELLO
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: MICHAEL COHEN
EDITED BY: CONSTANTINE LIMPERIS, MATTHEW MALLINSON, SHELLY TOSCANO
MUSIC COMPOSED AND PERFORMED BY: HAYES GREENFIELD
WRITTEN BY: STUART WARMFLASH
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: KATIE MESKELL
PRODUCED BY: DANNY FISHER
DIRECTED BY: JACK FISHER
Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook
It was a nightmare that shocked not only New York, but all of America. The public outcry about the Willowbrook State School (on Staten Island) for people with developmental disabilities resulted from Geraldo Rivera's expose on WABC after he had entered Willowbrook with a film crew, using a stolen key 25 years ago.
People were stunned by the graphic images of developmentally disabled and profoundly retarded residents sprawled naked on feces and urine covered floors, being forced to eat their meals in two or three minutes, when they required thirty or more, and other signs of severe neglect and abuse.
The public outrage was so intense that by 1975, a federal court ordered that institutional care must be phased out and replaced with community based homes. The mentally retarded would no longer be shuffled into "lunatic asylums." Instead, they would be given every opportunity to lead as constructive a life as possible. Still, the fight for the rights of the developmentally disabled is far from over.
"Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook" examines the impact that the horrors of Willowbrook had on the survivors and their families. Willowbrook took its toll not only on the survivors, but on the parents and siblings as well. "Unforgotten" takes us into the world of these families, revealing their sadness, frustrations and their attempt to come to terms with the day to day burden of living with the horrors that their loved ones had experienced.
The film, through interviews with family members, scenes with former Willowbrook residents, archival footage, family album stills and home movies, bears witness to the resilience and strength of Willowbrook survivors, and to the compassion and love of their families. "Unforgotten" conveys the message that the developmentally disabled are - as one of the participants explains - "human beings just like us." And as one of the siblings says, "... my disabled brother feels pain and happiness just like us... he likes to see the birds go by... feel the wind... hear the sounds all around him."
One former resident of Willowbrook wasn't even supposed to be there. Bernard Carabello was misdiagnosed as being mentally retarded and was abandoned at the age of three by his family at Willowbrook, where he lived for eighteen years. In fact, Bernard suffers from cerebral palsy and is physically, not mentally handicapped. In spite of difficulty of speech, Bernard speaks lucidly about his Willowbrook experiences, his hopes for a bright future and his contributions to society as a highly independent person.
"Unforgotten" also tells the story of how much we have progressed over the past twenty-five years, depicting the daily lives of some former Willowbrook residents who now live with dignity in community group homes. The progress of the past twenty-five years has made possible such phenomena as the Special Olympics World Games. Several of the film's participants went to the games and commented on the positive and hopeful message that the Special Olympics represents for all disabled people - in stark contrast to their loved ones' experiences in Willowbrook.
Finally, the film offers a warning. Budget cuts are a stark reality today, and there is still great opposition to group homes in communities across America. One sentiment expressed by all of the families is: We must learn the lessons of Willowbrook... to prevent it from happening again. And we must continue to improve the quality of life for our disabled citizens. As one sibling states, "Willowbrook was not just an institution, it was an attitude."