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March 31, 2009

Documentary honors gifted Stanford alumna who died homeless

This Dust of Words

In the late 1960s, Elizabeth Wiltsee was a student with an "utterly uncommon voice and sensibility," according to English Professor John Felstiner. She was dead at 50, a homeless person whose skeletal remains were found near San Luis Reservoir in Merced County in January 2000.

This Dust of Words, filmmaker Bill Rose's 2008 documentary on her life, will be shown at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 5, in Roble Theater.

The screening, presented by the Stanford Film Society, is free and open to the public.

Wiltsee graduated with honors from Stanford in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in English. Rose's film was inspired by John Felstiner's 2001 article about her published in Stanford magazine. Felstiner wasn't the only one to remember Wiltsee: Last year, a reading room at Watsonville's new state-of-the-art library was dedicated to Wiltsee, who, although homeless, had spent her days reading and writing in the city library from 1994 to 1999.

Rose's film has received praise at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, where it debuted last year, and at the Vancouver International Film Festival, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Sedona Film Festival and the Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greece, among others. ReviewVancouver called the film a "threnody" with "the delicacy of chamber music. You won't leave the theatre without being moved, even haunted."

Rose and Felstiner will field questions from the audience following the hour-long film.



Cynthia Haven, News Service: (650) 724-6184,


John Felstiner, English Department: (650) 723-4722,

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