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Community screening of Hilda O. vs. the State of New York

“The only witness is me. Telling my story.” – Hilda O.

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, March 23, a fitting day to be with community to watch the awaited short film Hilda O. vs. The State of New York.

DSI faculty Alison Cornyn (DSI Thesis I) organized the screening and co-directed and produced the film with Heather Greer. The auditorium was full of curious guests, project supporters, the general public, and DSI students and faculty.

A quiet, reflective opening scene of ripples in a Florida pool set the tone (the musical soundtrack had not been completed at the time of the screening). The film unfolded over a brief but expansive 15 minutes as a powerful, timely, emotional, and profoundly moving documentary about one woman’s fight for justice after the abuse she had suffered at the hands of state employees when she was a teen sentenced to the New York State Training School for Girls.

Hilda O. vs. The State of New York takes place between Hilda’s deposition and the court judgment and explores this ‘liminal moment’ with someone who has carried their story of child sexual abuse and trauma their whole life. The NY Child Victims Act passed in 2019 allowed Hilda to get her day in court, to share her experience and pain, after 65 years.

We watched the film, ending in a quiet, reflective mood, sensing Hilda’s fate and the meaning this case could have on others like her. Heather and Alison engaged the community in a question and feedback conversation. At 82 years old, while still suffering from the past, Hilda is a strong, brave, and committed individual – resolute in communicating her stories and seeking justice for both the past and future. Alison shared that she came to know Hilda through Incorrigibles, Alison’s project focusing on youth justice and social services with and for girls, people like Hilda, using the past to shed light on the present and a better future through art, media, and storytelling. We talked more about Hilda, the potential impact of the abuse and the importance of telling her story. We shared questions about policy, protecting human and civil rights under the law, the implications of reform institutions and penal systems, the vulnerability, courage, and bravery needed in sharing lived experience, and how we do that in these confusing and complex times.

Since March, Alison and Heather have locked the edit, and Samora Pinderhughes and Chris Pattishall have begun working on the score. They aim to complete the film for the summer festival submissions and their upcoming social impact campaign. Alison and her team are currently raising funds to finish the project.

Hilda O. still awaits her case.

Find out more or contribute to the film on the New York Foundation for the Arts website.

Read more about Incorrigibles. Incorrigibles probe the history of at-risk girls and underresourced families by framing society’s choices about reform, punishment, and confinement. Incorrigibles has been marrying the art of history and memory to spoken-word arts. We will continue to amplify formerly silenced voices—expressed in visual and aural forms.
Follow @incorrigibles0

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