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The Willowbrook State School treated mentally disabled children and adults, keeping them in warehouse-like conditions. Patients were force-fed milkshakes laced with a live hepatitis virus as part of state-sanctioned experiments from 1963 to 1966. It was closed for good in 1987 after the Advance and later, Geraldo Rivera, exposed conditions there. “Willowbrook,” which has a cast and crew of more than 40 student filmmakers, will be shot in high-definition at an old hospital south of Los Angeles. “It was built in the ‘40s and looks very much like East Coast architecture,” Cohen said. “It’s used for a lot of filming.” The shoot should take 10 days and editing is expected to wrap by December. The plan from there is to “screen it at festivals all over the world and festivals in the U.S.,” including a possible stop at next year’s Staten Island Film Festival. “Willowbrook” received $20,000 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a Manhattan-based nonprofit which makes grants related to science, technology and economic performance. Another $5,000 to $10,000 is needed to complete production. Tax-deductible donations can be made at www.willowbrookmovie.com/support. “[The film] is not just a history lesson, but it’s visually interesting,” Cohen said. “It’s a very important topic and I hope to move people with the story.”

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May 2011  
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