Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook

  • 1996
  • 57 MIN
  • NR

This earnest portrait of several developmentally disabled survivors of Staten Island's notorious Willowbrook State School should be required viewing for over zealous politicos swinging budget axes at state-funded health care. During the late 1960s, Willowbrook -- crippled by state budget cuts -- became a disease-ridden hellhole whose shockingly neglected...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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This earnest portrait of several developmentally disabled survivors of Staten Island's notorious Willowbrook State School should be required viewing for over zealous politicos swinging budget axes at state-funded health care. During the late 1960s, Willowbrook --

crippled by state budget cuts -- became a disease-ridden hellhole whose shockingly neglected (and often abused) residents were left to wallow naked in their own excrement. It wasn't until 1972, when investigative journalist Geraldo Rivera literally threw open the doors of the "school" -- more a

human kennel than a place of care -- that national attention was focused on the horrible conditions. Filmmaker Jack Fisher begins by intercutting horrific news footage with family photos and the heartbreakingly eloquent testimonials of family members, then focuses on the lives of the survivors, 25

years after Rivera's expose. The effect is sometimes emotionally overwhelming, and the film presents a strong case for continued support of noninstitutional care. Only Danny Aiello's intrusive onscreen narration -- which all too often suggests that he's taking part in a public service announcement

-- mars this otherwise worthy document.

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