October 3, 2023

ReelAbilities to Screen NYS CDD Willowbrook Documentary October 12th

ReelAbilities to Screen NYS CDD Willowbrook Documentary October 12th

The NYS Council on Developmental Disabilities (NYS CDD) has announced its short documentary, The Path Forward: Remembering Willowbrook will be screened at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan at 6 PM on October 12, 2023.


The screening of the film is hosted by ReelAbilities, an organization dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with disabilities, and will include a panel discussion by those who lived the Willowbrook experience.


Panelists include Bernard Carabello, former Willowbrook resident and founder of the Self-Advocate Association of NYS and Dr. Michael Wilkins, former Willowbrook physician and whistle blower.


Willowbrook was a state-supported institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities located in the Willowbrook neighborhood on Staten Island in New York City, and at the time, was the largest state-run institution for people with developmental disabilities in the world. Geraldo Rivera’s 1972 exposé gained national attention, and Willowbrook quickly became a tragic example of institutional abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities.


NYS CDD, in collaboration with OGS Media Services, has produced this half-hour documentary highlighting the importance of lessons learned, positive change that resulted, and the legacy of the former Willowbrook State School. The documentary features first-hand accounts from the original Willowbrook gamechangers - those who spoke out, took courageous action, risked their careers and reputations, and ultimately forever changed disability services in New York State and across the country.


“It is so important that we never forget what happened at Willowbrook, and current and future generations know this story and educate others so that history is not repeated,” said Vicky Hiffa, producer of The Path Forward documentary and Executive Director of the NYS CDD. “We are so honored to have preserved the voices and experiences of those who lived the Willowbrook story. We need to understand our past so that we can protect our future.”


“ReelAbilities brings films to the community that break down stigmas that exist towards the Disability community. Sharing the story of Willowbrook is crucial for our community to remember how far we've come, and to think about how much further we need to go to create a truly inclusive society," said ReelAbilities’ co-founder and CEO, Isaac Zablocki.


The Path Forward documentary was named a finalist in the recent Montauk Film Festival, was a winner in the Best Documentary Short category at the New York Independent Film Festival and the Sugar Loaf Film Festival and is selected to screen at the Syracuse International Film Festival and the Chautauqua International Film Festival.


The mission of the NYS CDD is to enhance the lives of New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities and their families through programs that promote self-advocacy, participation, and inclusion in all facets of community life. They are one of 56 state councils on developmental disabilities in the U.S. and its territories created through the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act). To view a trailer of the documentary and reserve tickets for the October 12th event, visit: The Path Forward: Remembering Willowbrook | Carole Zabar Center for Film (eventive.org)