Movie Review: Titicut Follies (1967) #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “T” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “T” documentaries I’ve reviewed are 13th, Tower, and Trekkies.

Title: Titicut Follies
Release Date: October 3, 1967
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Production Company: Zipporah Films, Inc.
Summary/Review:

This is a hard movie to watch and its even harder to believe it exists.  Frederick Wiseman filmed his first verite-style documentary with a single-camera and only existing light sources over 29-days at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  Bridgewater  State is far more prison than hospital and Wiseman documents how the patients are frequently stripped of clothing and left in bare rooms (reportedly as a cost-saving measure).  Guards mock and taunt patients. In a particularly grueling sequence, we see the prison staff rather indifferently force feed a patient.  The same patient died later on and images of his body being prepared for burial are intercut with the force feeding segment.

Not surprisingly, Massachusetts banned this movie and it was not made viewable by the general public until the 1990s.  The argument that it violates the patients’ privacy has its merits, but more like it was a cover your ass measure to hide the cruel treatment at Bridgewater State. In the decades after this movie was filmed there were cases of wrongful death as well people being held at Bridgewater past the end of their sentences, and some people sent there who never should’ve been there at all.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

This film documents another instance of how the word “criminal” can be used to justify the cruellest treatment of human beings.  A psychiatrist frequently appears in the film, but he seems only interested in agitating the prisoners and often he speaks nonsense.  The point is made that if you weren’t insane when you arrived at Bridgewater State, it is the type of place that would drive one to insanity.  Whatever your thoughts on crime and punishment, I hope you can agree that the cruel treatment documented in this film doesn’t do anyone any good.  I’m certain that even though this movie is 50 years old that there are prisons and “hospitals” that still function like this in the United States, and we need to work past incarceration and towards transformative justice and treatment.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:

“Like” may not be the right word in regards to this documentary, but if you feel moved to do something to help the incarcerated, I believe the Prison Book Program is an excellent cause to support.

Source: Kanopy

Rating: ****


2019 Blogging A to Z Challenge – Documentary Films, Part II

A: Amy
B: Being Elmo
C: Central Park Five
D: Dear Mr. Watterson
E: The Endless Summer
F: F for Fake
G: Grey Gardens
H: High School
I: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice
J: Jiro Dreams of Sushi
K: Kon-Tiki
L: The Last Waltz
M: Man With a Movie Camera
N: Nanook of the North
O: Obit.
P: Pelotero
Q: Quest: A Portrait of an American Family
R: Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan
S: Soundtrack for a Revolution

If you want to read more, check out my previous Blogging A to Z Challenges:

And dig deep into Panorama of the Mountains, by checking out my:

And, if you like Doctor Who, I have a whole ‘nother blog where I review Doctor Who stories across media: Epic Mandates.

5 thoughts on “Movie Review: Titicut Follies (1967) #atozchallenge

  1. This was the first Wiseman film I saw and I found it completely shocking when I first saw it. The inhumanity of the way those people were treated while in ‘care’ is shocking. But it started a lifelong love affair with documentary and I’ve now seen hundreds of hours of Wiseman docos and have loved almost every one.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I saw this a few years back. It’s disturbing but necessary for someone to bring the story to light. I can’t remember if anything positive came out of it, but I hope so. I know many of the state hospitals are shut down now, so it may have helped do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh, this has unearthed a buried memory! Watched that movie sometime in my late teens–in the early 70s–and it made a powerful and lasting impression on me. Yes, I’m sure that those conditions persist in prisons and mental institutions all over the world. And Yes to transformative justice. Thanks for the Prison Books link.

    Liked by 1 person

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