Titicut Follies USA 1967. Director: Frederick Wiseman
In his legendary first documentary, cinéma vérité master Frederick Wiseman leads us into the MCI-Bridgewater mental institution, a prison-hospital for the criminally insane run by the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. Wiseman shows us, without judgment, the incessant abuse of inmates as they are needlessly stripped bare, insulted, herded about, mocked, and taunted. His portrayal of the guards is equally intimate and disturbing; there's a sense of horror that the daily routine can work with such good humour, efficiency, and brutality. “Titicut Follies is a documentary film that tells you more than you could possibly want to know — but no more than you should know — about life behind the walls of one of those institutions where we file and forget the criminal insane ... The repulsive reality revealed in Titicut Follies forces us to contemplate our capacity for callousness” (Richard Schickel, Life). The film’s release caused a huge outcry; the State of Massachusetts sought to prevent its further circulation, and ultimately obtained a court order that restricted its exhibition: only members of the health-care, legal, or social work professions, or students in those fields, could legally see it. It was not until 1991 that Titicut Follies was released again to the general public. B&W, 16mm, 84 mins.
Post-screening discussion with Robert Menzies, a professor of sociology at Simon Fraser University. Robert has published widely on the relationship between psychiatry and law, and on mental health history in British Columbia. He is currently involved with a collective of academics and activists in a website project entitled The History of Madness in Canada — http://historyofmadness.ca/ — and is co-editing a forthcoming book entitled Mad Matters: A Critical Reader in Canadian Mad Studies.
Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.
"One of the most despairing documentaries I have ever seen; more immediate than fiction because these people are real; more savage than satire because it seems to be neutral."
Chicago Sun-Times | full review
"A masterpiece of muckraking in which he examines the workings and inhumanities of a state mental hospital in Massachusetts."
Chicago Reader | full review
"It is a small, black-and-white picture, laconic, abrasive, occasionally awkward and always compelling."
New York Times | full review