Out of Mind, Out of Sight by John Kastner

This post is the third in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary.

Like John Kastner’s 2013 documentary NCI: Not Criminally Responsible, his follow-up film, Out of Mind, Out of Sight, is also a powerful reminder of what a traditional, made-for-television film can do without experimentation. It can haunt, and it can devastate. It can also leave us asking questions about how social systems can be better funded, researched, and supported so that a deeply unproductive prison system doesn’t feel like our only choice.

Out of Mind, Out of Sight takes place over eighteen months in the Brockville Mental Health Centre, where individuals who have been found (in legal terms) “not criminally responsible” for violent crimes due to mental illness are sent for treatment and support. The film follows four patients and has one standout subject whose inability to forgive himself for what he has done is juxtaposed powerfully with the unconditional support and compassion of his family. The remarkable strength and patience of the nurses and doctors as well as the patients demonstrate that fear and flight needn’t be a common reaction to people in mental distress. The film left me thinking about not only how more can be done to meet people’s mental health needs, but also other unmet needs that result in people’s imprisonment. It is a testament to the film that it can not only help destigmatize certain populations but leave one wondering about the infrastructure required for a more compassionate and just society generally.

Top photo credit: Geoff George