Saturday, 6 April 2013

Titicut Follies

Breaking from my recent norm or chillers and zomb flicks, I venture into the murky world of documentary film to bring you a review of Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies (1967). Probably most famous for being the first film in American history to be banned on grounds other than immorality, obscenity or national security.

Follies is filmed at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and follows a number of inmates as they go about their daily lives within the walls of the hospital. Unfortunately for Bridgewater, the resulting film highlighted a number of harsh treatments by guards on inmates and an obvious lack of knowledge from doctors within the institution as to the best ways to manage the inmates behaviours. Eventualy this led to a court case and the eventual banning of the film from public view. As with most films that others have attempted to sweep under the carpet, it garnered a cult status, leading many people to try and track down copies for its notoriety.

Wiseman clearly, from the outset, works with what little equipment he had available to capture as much footage as he could, as quickly as he could. It is obvious that the finished film is sculpted around the footage recorded, rather than following a set plan. It is shocking and often difficult to watch and Wiseman does not pull any punches. Death, humiliation and despair are shown in equal measures and it is clear to see, back in a period of change and unrest, why officials would be keen to keep this film out of the public eye.

Follies is recommended to those who work or train in the mental health industry as an example of the 'bad old days', but also to those with a fairly strong disposition for real life mistreatment and degradation. I'm unsure, as to this point, if Titicut Follies ever obtained an official release, I'm pretty sure it never did (although Wikipedia seems to suggest otherwise), but it's not that hard to track down if you try.

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