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Lest We Forget 2007


Distributed by Fanlight Productions, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Mark R. Lyons
Directed by Mark R. Lyons
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Disability Studies, Psychology, Sociology

Date Entered: 10/29/2008

Reviewed by Timothy W. Kneeland, History and Political Science Department, Nazareth College of Rochester, Rochester, NY

Lest We Forget is a short, tightly framed and well directed documentary on the civil rights struggle to deinstitutionalize the mentally disabled. Using vivid interviews of patients, family and disability rights advocates, the film describes the history of institutions for the “feeble minded,” which evolved from communities of care into overcrowded, under funded, abusive, dumping grounds. Those in need of love and care were at best neglected but more often victimized by their caretakers. The nightmare which these patients endured came to an end in the 1970s when a core group of former civil right and anti-war activists advocated for the rights of the mentally disabled. Using publicity and the courts they mounted successful legal challenges and passage of legislation that not only allowed the patients to leave the institutions but also provided for community treatment options.

The story is centered by patient testimonies which are moving and memorable. The parents are seen as loving parents who were often pressured by their family, physicians and society to place their children in institutions. They are not demonized and their angst is well demonstrated. Ultimately, this is an optimistic film. The final patient testimony is James Mack who recounts the difference between his life in an institution and his independent living arrangements today. Now he knows “freedom.” Lest We Forget cleverly reminds us of the past but also places a burden on us to continue to provide enriched environments for our most vulnerable citizens.

The director is masterful and the film quality is high. The brevity of the documentary allows for the entire film to be viewed in one sitting, making it suitable for a high school or college class that meets for 50 minutes or more. Due to the graphic testimony of the patients, especially when discussing their abuse at the hands of the caretakers, this film would not be suitable for younger audiences.

Recommended for high school through adult audiences.