Titicut Follies: A film of horrible beauty / by Christian Tizya

Taken from

Dangerous Minds

, this documentary for years had been one of those legendary "bootlegs" that made the rounds because it was actually illegal to show it anywhere. Not because of so much explicit content (which it does have) but because many of the subjects in the film did not give their written consent so a judge ordered it sealed up. It was lifted in 1991 and slowly has begun to surface.

Someone has uploaded it to Youtube in it's entirety (with Spanish subtitles) and now you can see what I saw in high school in my film studies class. Our teacher showed it to us as a study in propaganda techniques through the ages, and he used this as an example of something that doesn't mislead the audience into a particular opinion. The style of the film is shot as Mise En Scene which means the director 

Frederick Wiseman 

basically went in as a "fly on the wall" with a camera and mic and became a part of the environment.

The film has no interviews, no music or particular thread but it is defined as a documentary exposing the horrible conditions mentally ill patients had to endure. One reason I find this fascinating is because the director is basically just shooting everything going on around him and the subjects basically accept him as part of their routine. It's like the anthropological debate, whether you keep a distance or take subjective approach from within. As a result, photographically you have moments of serene beauty amidst the terrifying madness.

See for yourself. Be forewarned it is disturbing and explicit in parts, but I guarantee you will never forget it as did I 20 years ago. It actually influenced me as a filmmaker in style aesthetic.

Dangerous Minds | ‘Titicut Follies’: The legendary banned film from 1967 that went inside of an insane asylum


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