Frederick Wiseman USA, 1967
In the late fifties, Frederick Wiseman, then a professor of law, took his students to observe the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Massachusetts. What they saw was a modern-day snake pit with dehumanized inmates offered little hope or dignity. Six years later Wiseman returned, this time with a 16mm camera. The result of his visit, Titicut Follies is a stark but compassionate look at the horrific conditions that persisted in the state-run institution. The inventory of indignities is frightful: decrepit men are led naked to their cells while guards taunt them into fits of anger, a young man who complains that his incarceration is making his condition worse is met by flippant replies from staff psychiatrists... Representing the inmates, the state took Wiseman to court, charging that he had violated their wards' privacy. It wasn't until twenty-four years later that the injunction was overturned. Wiseman has maintained all along that "the privacy that was really invaded was the privacy of the state officials to run the place in the way it was run."
• Photographed by John Marshall. (87 mins, B&W, 16mm, From Zipporah Films)