The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


January 16, 2007

New Orleans crime victim

Helen Hill, 36, a renowned independent filmmaker with life-long ties to the Lutheran church, was fatally shot Jan. 4 in her New Orleans home. Her husband, Paul Gailiunas, a 35-year-old Canadian physician, was injured in the early morning shooting and is recovering from multiple gunshot wounds. The couple’s 2-year-old son, Francis, was not injured in the random shooting. The homicide occurred during a spate of murders in New Orleans, in which six died violently in less than 24 hours.

Hill and Gailiunas were devoted to peace-making and humanitarian efforts, including Doctors Without Borders. Gailiunas dedicated his career to treating the poor, and Hill offered filmmaking workshops at a local coffee shop. Hill also helped her husband run Food Not Bombs, a group that handed out food to the needy.

Hill’s films included: “The Florestine Collection” (2005), an animated movie reflecting on handcrafted work as well as race issues in New Orleans, garnering her a $35,000 fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation; “Bohemian Town” (2004), described as a “love letter” to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Hill and her husband lived in the 1990s; “Madame Winger Makes A Film: A Survival Guide for the 21st Century (2001), and “Mouseholes (1999).

Hill’s funeral took place at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Columbia, S.C., a congregation her great-great grandfather helped found, and where Hill was raised and confirmed. Her funeral overflowed with “an eclectic group of Helen’s colorful friends” from New Orleans, said her brother, Jake Hill. “Holding the funeral at St. Paul, and singing the hymns and hearing the readings brought us great comfort. During the funeral, the pastor said Helen was spiritual ‘in her own way,’ not by talking about Jesus, but by living out her faith.”

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