During the Second World War, 45,000 psychiatric patients perished in French hospitals. Only one facility survived intact: an asylum in Saint-Alban an isolated rural village in central France.
At Saint-Alban, doctors, patients, nuns, and nurses worked side by side, for the survival of all. With active resistance in the background, the doctors led a whole community in elaborating a new conception of psychiatry and the madman’s role in society. The fight against the Nazi oppressor changed into a fight against all forms of oppression and confinement. Saint-Alban became the crucible of the “institutional psychotherapy” movement that revolutionized post- war psychiatric care.
Made up of film and sound archives and photographs discovered at the hospital, the film immerses us in the intensity of a reinvented institutional routine, over the course of several decades. Political courage and poetic audacity changed perceptions of madness. Reviving the memory of Saint-Alban goes beyond psychiatry to reflect our own ability to invent and accommodate.
Dir. Martine Deyres - 77min - 2019 - France, Switzerland, Belgium
"Combining archival films, photographs and testimonies, Martine Deyres' documentary reveals the exemplary story of a psychiatric hospital which put freedom at the centre of its concerns." - RTBF.be