Oscar winner Hilary Swank was in Lansdowne Thursday night, promoting both her new feature film and highlighting the plight of those wrongfully convicted.
Dozens of members of the public were in attendance for the screening of Conviction, which took place at Prison Fellowship’s headquarters in Lansdowne, and was followed by a panel discussion.
Conviction tells the true story of Betty Anne Waters, played by Swank, and her years-long journey to free her wrongfully-convicted brother, Kenneth, from a life sentence for murder. Waters dedicated 18 years of her life to that fight, earning her GED, college degree and law degree in hopes of uncovering evidence in the case to prove her brother’s innocence.
Following the screening, Swank was joined by two surprise guests onstage – the real Betty Anne Waters and her friend Abra Rice, played in the movie by Minnie Driver. The three fielded questions from members of the public on myriad questions, including why Swank chose to participate in the movie.
Swank said she hadn’t heard about the story of Waters until about seven years ago when she read the script. At the time, she was training for Million Dollar Baby.
“I read the script and I was absolutely blown away. I didn’t believe it could be a true story,” she said.
Swank said she was shocked at the details of the story, including the “selfless grace” shown by Waters and the lengthy process in trying to get Kenneth exonerated.
“I was hooked line and sinker,” she said.
Swank was credited by Prison Fellowship representatives for being instrumental in pushing for a nationwide tour promoting the film and the bringing attention to those who are wrongfully imprisoned.
“Knowledge is power,” Swank said. “The more we discuss, no matter what your affiliation politically, the more we talk the more we learn.”
She pointed to the number of real people she has portrayed in movies, from Amelia Earhart to transsexual teen Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry.
“I walk around in different peoples shoes, see through different people’s eyes. I carry Betty Anne and the Brandon Teenas of the world and the Amelias in my heart and I feel like I’m a better person because of it,” she said.