BFI Flare 2021 ‘Cured’ Review: Fascinating and Terrifying History of Prejudice in Psychiatry

Cured details the history of American Psychiactric attitudes to homosexual people. From decrying any non-heterosexual sexuality as a mental illness to the gradual acceptance of a common humanity, the film vividly renders the brutal fight at the very beginning and at very heart of the gay rights movement.

The film features truly horrifying footage of the treatment of gay people in the 50s including electric shock therapy, aversion therapy and lobotomies. All are portrayed with actual footage of the procedures, recorded openly, with no shame by those involved. The film demonstrates how this cruel treatment stems from a very well respected panel of psychiatrists who used problematic sampling techniques and a complete lack of compassion to produce report that dehumanised gay people. Wherever there is systematic injustice, there is always such a report.

There’s a horribly tension to the protests of the 1950s. How could something so barbaric but so systemic be effectively challenged. It’s like hearing of those who protested or fought back in Nazi Germany. There was such a total evil in America for gay people in the 50s, it’s incredible and glorious that some people risked it all for change and justice.

Then the 60s come and things seem so much more possible. Not only gay people, but women, trans people, African Americans and of course pacifists all started fighting for equality. In such an environment everything seems possible. The beast is no less fierce but the people can fight back. The revolutionary attitudes of the 60s come as a relief and pave the way for much broader debate into the 70s and 80s.

It’s Interesting to see the role that media plays in public debate. As more and more popular American television shows made homosexuality, as an identity or even as an issue, visible to the American public, the moreattitude could be changed. At a crucial protest in the film an activist insists that gay rights has been a monologue throughout history and needs to become a dialogue, a dialogue that Involves gay people. This dialogue is key to a shared humanity.

The interviewees are fascinating in their recollection, particularly in describing the fear they successfully fought to effect meaningful change through peaceful protest and constructive disruption. The interviewees are a great range of people from throughout the movement and all are incredibly candid about their feelings at the time. It grows towards a beautifully cathartic moment, a victory that fully lands because of how well the film has communicated the stakes.

Cured does what great Documentaries do; it presents a battle you maybe havent heard of and effectively communicates that it was one of the most important ever fought. The battle for the minds of the american public was hard fought and hard won. There is still a fight out there but Cured reminds us of how far we’ve come and how far we may fall if we ever forget what was and is at cost: our shared humanity.

Five Stars

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