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From Exploitation to Self-Reflection: Representing Persons with Psychiatric Disabilities in Documentary Film

From: Literature and Medicine
Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 1998
pp. 68-90 | 10.1353/lm.1998.0008


Filmmaker Stastny examines documentary films that feature persons with disabilities. The essay suggests that a "new polyvocality subverts the traditional psychiatric nomenclature by affirming a right to name personal experiences as one chooses." Making use of theoretical grids from Bill Nichols's Representing Reality and Richard M. Barsam's Non-Fiction Film---A Critical History, Stastny establishes a historical progression in documentaries from the 1930s to the present. His essay categorizes films into documentaries, medical specimens and soulful freaks, psychiatry and Nazi propaganda films, asylum films, autobiographical films, and the films in the future of psychiatry.

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