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Hart Island: An American Cemetery

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Contact: Melinda Hunt   
Director: Melinda Hunt
Writer: Melinda Hunt
Producer: Banff New Media Institute, Melinda Hunt
Runtime: 66 min
Synopsis: Hart Island is America's largest cemetery where three quarters of a million people have been buried in mass graves on 101 acres of an island in the Bronx. Four families struggle to sort out how their relative ended up on Hart Island. They confront social stigma, outdated policies, police oversights and complacency. They defy the assumption that no one cares about people buried in the potter's field.

At the end of a long journey through a labyrinth of city agencies: the NYPD, the Office of the Medical Examiner, and the NYC Department of Correction they locate a truth about how easily people become lost. They struggle to perform the most basic grieving rituals: visiting a grave, spreading the parents' ashes, locating a body mistakenly buried, searching the records and seeking justice.

Each family represents a larger group of who is buried on Hart Island: infants, immigrants, victims of disease and epidemics and victims of crime.Their stories are separated into chapters within the Nineteenth Century poem by Walt Whitman, "Leaves of Grass." This poem is set to music composed by Fred Hersch and sung by Kurt Elling. It portrays the beauty and darkness of Hart Island that is unchanged since Whitman's lifetime.

Hart Island is the last undeveloped one hundred acres in New York City, a place abundant nature. Yet, it carries a primal fear of being forgotten. The burial place of three quarters of a million people, it represents a democracic as well as the looming flipside of the American Dream.
  Copyright: ©2006 Melinda Hunt
Genre: Documentary, Documentary
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