Titicut Follies (1967, Frederick Wiseman)

The beginning of cinema verite, and the beginning of the most celebrated documentarian’s ongoing project to film America’s cultural institutions seemed like a fine place to start Documentary Month.

Movie is just what we thought it’d be, an unflinching look inside a Massachusetts state prison for the criminally insane. We see the inmates’ terrible conditions, their shower and recreation facilities, harassment from the guards. One inmate rebels against his circumstances (leading to force-feeding and death), another lucidly argues to whoever will listen that he doesn’t belong here and that the place is doing him harm. No wonder the state of Mass got hysterical when they saw what Wiseman had exposed, suing him to prevent the movie’s release while hurriedly renovating their prison system to address the imminent protests.

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