Film Screening – TITICUT FOLLIES

May 5, 2009 - 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

In his eye-opening masterpiece, Frederick Wiseman chronicles the daily activities of the staff and inmates at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. From psychological evaluations, to recreation time and from treatments to impromptu concerts, this evocative film shows with gritty clarity the way in which the inmates are treated by guards, social workers and psychiatrists.

Titicut Follies takes its name from the New Year’s Eve variety show put on by the staff and featuring musical acts by inmates who are more likely to look lost, confused, and frightened than happy to be performing. The staff’s indifference to the discomfort of the inmates is disappointing, but it is benign in comparison to the routine treatment of the inmates who are frequently manhandled, incessantly badgered or condescended to, and abused and degraded in a myriad of ways. Sessions with the psychiatrist are cold and accusatory with little apparent therapeutic purpose. Inmates are typically kept naked and housed in barren, isolation chambers without plumbing, cots, or personal effects. The guards’ behavior towards the inmates ranges from indifference to sadism.

This is Wiseman’s first film and it is a hellish descent. It is an indictment of the mental health system so powerful that the authorities felt compelled to quash it, and a record for the ages, lest we ever forget. Banned in Massachusetts in  1968, the authorities suppressed Titicut for a quarter century, arguing that it violated the privacy of the inmates – a risible claim, as it’s painfully clear that these men had no rights at all.

FREE TO THE PUBLIC. ArtRage is handicapped accessible. Off-street parking at 408 & 414 Lodi Street.