Programmed by Éva Tourrent
Between 1939 and 1945, more than 40,000 internees died of starvation in French psychiatric hospitals. Only one place escaped this hecatomb, the asylum of an isolated village in the center France: Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole. What happened here and nowhere else that made them the exception? Perhaps the answer lies in the few hours of amateur films that I happened to find. Emerging from the past, they bear witness to the thousands of daily inventions of a place of resistance.
“We didn’t tie up the sick here.” The voice of Martines Deyres, calm and kind, mingles with those of the carers of St. Alban. Together they tell, in a voice over, the incredible experience that took place in this pioneering place of institutional psychiatry for nearly 60 years. What we see, some super 8 reels shot by the staff and found by the director. We see mainly parties, daily life, workshops or work on the farm. It’s all part of the hospital. No distinction between patients and staff, between care and life. Together they dance, play, work. They produce their own food and create some of the major works of Art Brut. At a time of security locks, passcodes and budget cuts at the hospital, this film resonates as a vibrant tribute to the existence of a different psychiatry but also to a political resistance: one of love for singularity and solidarity.
Tënk’s Artistic Director