“Dead Mother’s Underwear” brings awareness

The stages of grief are often a difficult subject to approach, moreover dealing with them on a personal level can be challenging. Getting your story out there in a way that speaks to others is another.

Jill Hildebrandt’s short film “Dead Mother’s Underwear” premiered on Nov. 8 in Ostrander Auditorium. The show is based on Hildebrandt’s life three months after her mother passed away. Hildebrandt’s sisters asked her if she wanted their mother’s underwear and she agreed. The title originated a few weeks later.

“I forgot that I had put them on at some point. I  woke up at about 3 a.m. and walked into the kitchen and I started laughing when I realized that I was in my dead mother’s underwear,” laughed Hildebrandt. “I called my sister the next morning and she said it sounded like a punk rock song and it grew from there.”

The process to make the film started all the way back in February of 2020. Hildebrandt received grants from Prairies Lakes Regional Arts Council and the Minnesota States Arts Board and planned to use the money to write and perform a live show for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. However, COVID-19 changed her plans. 

“I wanted to do a live show, but with the logistics of being on stage with masks and mics, we could only get one in-person rehearsal in,” said Hildebrandt. “We did some Zoom rehearsals before we filmed. It was a good last-minute choice.”

While Hildebrandt tackled the writing, she was not alone in bringing the film to life. Her friends Jill Fischer and Joe Tougas did the videography and music while her friends Ronda Redmond, Emily Stark and sister Gretchen Hildebrandt did voice over work. Hildebrandt credits director and good friend Jennifer Tuder for helping her find the balance of discussing dark topics along with comedic tones. 

“[Jennifer] was great for helping me find that fine line balance since it’s very cutting and biting,” said Hildebrandt. “There’s a moment of reflection and I think that it has to be done in a delicate way.”

While the name sounds like a light-hearted film, the film has a deeper undertone to it all, covering messages of alcoholism, suicidal ideations, mental health and what we inherit from others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Hildebrandt had to find palatable ways to show heavy content to the audience, an emotional process for Hildebrandt. 

“I thought we would be able to film in four hours, but we only got three out of eleven scenes done,” said Hildebrandt. “Putting my story out there was difficult, but I want to help other people talk about these issues to start these conversations.”

Hildebrandt hopes that audiences were able to start thought-provoking transformational conversations with others. While topics such as mental health and alcoholism are considered taboo, Hildebrandt wants to shed light on them. 

“It might be the first time that they’ve dealt with [these issues] or brushed them aside and they’ll realize that they want to address them,” shared Hildebrandt. “I hope people can converse more openly to break the stigma and link them to resources.”

Using humor to shed light on dark times, Hildebrandt’s film is sure to spark conversation and help others heal.

One thought on ““Dead Mother’s Underwear” brings awareness

  • Thank you for the great write-up, interview, Emma! Much appreciation!

    My sister Jennifer Hildebrandt also helped with the voice over work of my mother’s voice. Just wanted to add that. Thank you!

    Much appreciation to the Comm. Studies Dept., Andreas Grant, and Kristi Treinen for making this all possible at Minnesota State University Mankato.

    So fun to come back to my alma mater!


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