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Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook
Unforgotten Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook
Actor: documentary
Director: Jack Fisher
Genres: Documentary
NR     2008     0hr 56min

A critically acclaimed, award-winning documentary that examines the impact of the horrors of Willowbrook on the survivors and their families, Unforgotten features eloquent testimonials of family members and focuses on the ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: documentary
Director: Jack Fisher
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary
Studio: City Lights
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 09/30/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 0hr 56min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Willowbrook is a moving documentary
Robert G Yokoyama | Mililani, Hawaii | 10/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Willowbrook is a moving documentary about the lives of adults who are mentally disabled. I have never heard of the Staten Island, New York school before watching this documentary. I am shocked that thousands of people lived in such deplorable conditions for decades. Reporter Geraldo Rivera first exposed Willowbrook as an overcrowded and understaffed facility in 1972. The school closed in 1987, and some of the former residents have gone on to live productive lives. The message of this documentary is that people with mental disabilities should be given the change to reach their potential, no matter what that is. I am touched by the story of Benard Carabello. He was diagnosed with mental retardation when he actually has cerebral palsy. He now leads a full active life as a disability advocate. I am also touched by the story of the late Luis Rivera. This young man did not have the ability to communicate verbally, but he communicated such warmth and love through his smile and facial gestures. This documentary definitely increases my compassion for people with disabilities."
Important documentary
Filmguy | NY | 10/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary is a heartfelt account of the effects upon individuals and families of the policy that treated people worse than ASPCA would have allowed for animals. Unfortunately, not many people know how some of our children with disabilities were once treated, and for that reason, everyone should see this documentary. Although the film may be modest in technique and a few years old, it documents something that should not be forgotten. It is hard to believe this existed here in the USA only a few years ago. Those viewers more interested in content than packaging will be greatly moved by this film."
Poignant documentary with some mighty haunting footage
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 07/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary about Willowbrook "State School" in Staten Island, New York really pushed my buttons. As a former social worker who specialized in working with the intellectually challenged population, I knew only too well that the conditions in many institutions were deplorable. I myself worked at a facility that was not exactly the best; and it certainly was a baptism by fire at best! This film, hosted by Danny Aiello, demonstrates that the people who were emotionally scarred by Willowbrook and similar facilities remain scarred many years after the closing of this "school" where roughly 80% of the residents were never given any education at all. The documentary moves at a good pace; at 57 minutes the run time is short but it certainly made me tear up a few times. This is mighty powerful stuff, to say the least. The archival footage we get is not the best quality; but I assume that they simply couldn't get the lighting that they would have liked. After all, the archival footage was filmed during Geraldo Rivera's unannounced visit to Willowbrook to expose the horrifying conditions there for his shocking news piece for a television news channel back in 1971.

In this film we meet several people who have a disabled person in their family; and they share with us moving, heartrending stories of the immense pain of parents and siblings who had to give up members of their families to facilities like Willowbrook because that was what all the "experts" would recommend at that time. Religious leaders, doctors and other family members would all encourage the parents of a developmentally disabled child to put the child into an institution and essentially leave them there. There were no group homes in regular residential communities. We even get one story of a man who actually went so far as to tell his family that the child was stillborn rather than let them know that the child was born with a disability and placed into Willowbrook! It's incredible.

We also learn that there was extremely insufficient funding from New York State to get the appropriate levels of staff into Willowbrook. This was an enormous, inhumane disgrace. Although the quality of care has greatly improved since the days of Willowbrook and similar institutions, staffing issues remain a problematic issue for most if not all social work agencies and group homes throughout the country. I never hear of a facility or a social work agency that has too many staff members!

Of course, I want to leave more of this for you so that you can have your own experience when watching this film. Although it may seem that I've given it all away, I didn't. You will see much more footage and the DVD also has as a bonus feature Geraldo Rivera's initial "surprise" exposé report on Willowbrook filmed back in 1971. It's haunting.

Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook is a valuable learning tool for anyone studying the issues regarding persons who are intellectually challenged. Indeed, people going into any branch of health care should see this film; and if someone in your family has this type of disability you might want to add this to your DVD collection. I highly recommend this DVD."
Mistreatment is an understatement
Donia Allen | 04/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This documentary was great, it gives a glimpse into the cruel reality of the mistreatment of the individuals that can't protect themselves. How our government works, the way our country locks away and forgets about the less fortunate population, we pay our garbage collectors more than we pay people to take care of and house the developmentally disabled. SAD, SAD, SAD!!!"