CIFF Review: Out of Mind, Out of Sight: 18 Months In The Life of The Brockville Mental Health Centre!

Out of Mind - Michael - 09-28-14

Rarely do you come across a documentary ad simultaneously devastating and full of hope. Directed by John Kastner and produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Out Of Mind, Out of Sight is the first film to actually look at the patients and staff of the Brockville Mental Health Centre – a hospital for the criminally insane, or, more accurately, a forensic psychiatric unit. Every one of its patients has some sort of criminal charge – usually violence related.

Director Jack Kastner takes inside the Centre, which houses 59 patients all suffering from some form/some degree of Schizophrenia. Some of those patients will never leave Brockville; some will recover well enough to receive supervised – or even unsupervised – visits to the community, but no more. A very few might actually be returned to the community permanently.

Shot over an eighteen month period, the film concentrates on a handful of the Centre’s patients – Carole Seguin, Justine Winder, Sal Beninato and Michael Stewart.

We learn that women cause more trouble inside than men, well out in world, it’s just the opposite. When Carole, for example, has a bad day, she will hurt others or, if that option is not available, will hurt herself. She occasionally winds up in five-point restraints.

Out of Mind - Michael Stewart 09-28-14

Justine is a cutter – if she isn’t getting the attention she feels she needs, she will cut herself. There are scares on her left arm – at least one of which passed through the skin and fatty tissue and into the muscle. When she’s not out of control, she is a sweetheart.

Sal doesn’t talk muck much, at first claimed not to hear voices but virtually seconds later, talked about what the voices tell him to do. He and Carole have a relationship, which Justine attempting to breach.

The film’s main focus, though, is Michael Stewart, a quiet, thoughtful guy who looks more than a bit like David Boreanaz. He is in Brockville because, some years ago, he beat his mother to death. His tale is one of hope, though. His family (father, two brothers and a sister) are far more accepting of his diagnosis and understand that he was as much of a victim as his mother – and visit regularly.

Kastner interviews a number of the Brockville’s staff and it is hard to listen to them calmly describing patients’ problems, criminal records and likelihoods of recovery and socialization. When one nurse reads the record of events that put Michael inside, it is chilling.

Out of Mind, Out of Sight goes to great pains to get to know its subjects and let us see that they are not the monsters that headlines might have made them out to be. It is a film simultaneously filled with devastation and hope. Devastation in the realization that these people were placed in Brockville for something they couldn’t understand and incidents they should be blamed for – and may never leave; hope for those few whom treatment get to a level that they can once again function in society.

Final Grade: A