From the Dangerous Minds blog:
Frederick Wiseman’s powerful, depressing—Roger Ebert called it “despairing” and that’s probably a better word—1967 documentary Titicut Follies revealed the sordid and horrific conditions of the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane in Bridgewater, Massachusetts.
Wiseman’s camera watches impassively as the patients are bullied, taunted, herded like cattle, mocked, stripped, drugged and kept in sub-human conditions by the institution’s callously indifferent guards, social workers and psychiatrists. The film is a narrator-less, structure-less collection of some of the bleakest cinéma vérité images in film history. The footage of the yearly New Year’s Eve talent show, the “Titicut Follies” (“Titcut” is the Indian name for the Taunton river) featuring the inmates (and some of the staff) is like something straight out of a Harmony Korine film. In another scene, a doctor smokes a cigarette and dangles a long ash over a funnel as he inserts a long rubber tube into a patient’s nostril for a force-feeding.