By Michelle Cole, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
June 25–The latest film about Oregon’s infamous state mental hospital contains scenes from Hollywood’s “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” but the stories it tells are real.
“Guilty Except for Insanity” is a 90-minute documentary offering viewers a chance to get to know three men and two women who are patients at the Oregon State Hospital. It chronicles the haunting events that landed them in the hospital, what life is like on the ward and just how difficult it is to get better and get out.
The film started as a class project for Portland State University psychology professor Jan Haaken, who turned more than two years and 70 interviews into a documentary slated for its Portland premiere Sunday night.
Haaken talked with The Oregonian Thursday about the film, including her plans to do a final edit in response to the feedback she gets from Sunday’s audience. Here is condensed version of that interview:
The five patients you featured have interesting yet terrible stories how did you choose them?
I wanted ethnic diversity and gender diversity. I found that over half of the patients we approached wanted to have their story told. Those stories, in one way or another, involve people whose lives had fallen apart quite a bit before the state steps in — and we step in with a heavy boot.
What did you learn from making this film?
I started thinking the hospital was an evil place. I don’t any more. I see these places as shock absorbers in a very troubled system.
During the time you were making this documentary, there were a number of controversial events, yet you don’t mention the patient who was dead in his bed for hours before staff noticed or the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice investigation. Was that on purpose?
Yes. I wanted to focus on the people in the hospital and those who carry out the work.
What do you want Oregon viewers to take away from your documentary?
The film is different from social-problem documentaries in that it doesn’t direct you to do a particular thing at the end or offer a clear resolution in terms of who the bad guy is.
People carry these images of the “criminally insane,” I’m hoping people will see more of the complex humanity.
Have the patients and staff seen this film and will any of them be there for the Portland premiere?
Yes. All five of the featured patients will be with me and taking questions and comments from the audience.
— Michelle Cole
Documentary Website: http://www.guiltyexcept.com/