Gateway Film Center on Sunday will celebrate Art House Theatre Day with a showing of a 4K restoration of documentary drama “Titicut Follies.”
Directed by Frederick Wiseman, the long-banned documentary investigates the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Massachusetts. The 4K restoration brings a clearer picture and greater detail to the classic film as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Art House Theatre Day was created by the Art House Convergence, which supports and gives back to theatre communities all around the world. The organization started in 2006, and has grown to over 600 people that attend its annual conference.
Inspired by Record Store Day, the goal of Art House Theatre Day is to celebrate the cultural role and importance of independent theaters have in the community. In celebration of the day, the screening will also feature a pre-recorded, never-before-seen conversation between Wiseman and Wiseman superfan Wes Anderson.
Scott Vezdos, director of marketing for Gateway Film Center, said the theater decided to feature the 1967 drama because of its ability to resonate with audiences enough to inspire social change.
“Wiseman’s film drew the world’s attention to the inhumane practices of state mental institutions, and despite censorships and bans, brought about much-needed improvements and regulations,” Vezdos said.
This film focuses on the mistreatment of patients and the disturbing events that occurred in a 1960s mental institution. Due to extensive issues with privacy law, the film was banned from the general public until 1991. However, it was allowed to be shown to doctors, lawyers, healthcare professionals, social workers and students in related fields starting in 1969 after Wiseman appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
“Wiseman’s landmark documentary provides a raw and candid perspective on the institutionalization of inmates in the United States,” Vezdos said. “The film documents the various ways the inmates were treated by the guards, social workers and psychiatrists.”
Matthew Swift, the coordinator of the film studies program at Ohio State, said he believed the main theme of the controversy surrounding the film was consent.
“[Wiseman] needed to obtain rights from the institution he was filming in as well as from the patients themselves,” Swift said. “The controversy arises when we ask, ‘Can someone who has a psychological or cognitive disability and is institutionalized for such a disability actually give consent for anything that happens to them?’”
Even 50 years later, Swift said he believes “Titicut Follies” is a relevant film today because it highlights mental health institutions and mistreatment within the criminal justice system.
“This film shows actual situations where people are being mistreated in time when there were far fewer advocates for people with disabilities and the unfair treatment of inmates,” he said.
Films with strong importance and the ability to create change are at the base of the meaning of Art House Theatre Day, Vezdos said.
“Art House Theatre Day celebrates the legacy of art houses as the trusted champions of important, world-changing films like this” Vezdos said.
“Titicut Follies” will be shown at the Gateway Film Center Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets are available online for $10.75, and students can receive a discount with a valid student ID.