Hot Docs 2014: Out of Mind, Out of Sight – Documentary Review

Director: John Kastner
Country: Canada
Runtime: 88 minutes
Rating: 14A

After his documentary NCR (not criminally responsible) received critical acclaimed, John Kastner went back to exploring Mental Illness and its relation to crime in Out of Mind, Out of Sight. Having been granted 18 months to document the lives of patients, Kastner delivers an extensive and insightful look inside the lives of criminals struggling with mental illness, and the way this illness has affected their lives.

Out of Mind, Out of Sight

Out of Mind out of Sight documents life in the Brockville Mental Health Centre in Brockville Ontario, and it follows the lives of several patients inside the facility, who after being convicted of a crime were declared NCR and thus put inside the compound, where they receive help in order to stabilize their behavior, with the hopes of one day being released back into the community. The documentary tackles serious aspects of the patients lives, such as their behavioral struggles and their guilt, but it also shows how they tackle the mundane inside the facility, all while experiencing love, loneliness, and frustration.

The cameras go inside the hospital and the spectator is able to see many different aspects of the lives of the patients and the nurses. Their rooms are shown, as well as their common areas, and rooms where they could potentially be restrained. Through the nurses and the patients the spectator is introduced to the daily lives of the patients inside the hospital, where they experience things that are astonishing, but also other aspects of their lives that are as mundane and as trivial as any others. The documentary relies on interviews with the patients Michael, a man convicted of murdering his mother, Carole, a schizophrenic patient, and Justine, a woman diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in order to tell its central narrative. The three individuals are very different, but all their insight is extremely insightful, especially the women, who bring forth differences in gender and the way it is seen inside the environment of the facility.

Out of Mind, Out of Sight

The footage is so raw that at times it can give a certain exploitative feeling. The detached and carefree attitudes of some of the nurses surprised me, and the struggles of the patients saddened me. Despite the feeling of uneasiness that the documentary made me experience, it reminded me that that was the point. Out of Mind, Out of Sight merely opened a window that is seldom seen, and it is as human and as deserving of attention and exploration as the lives of those who do not struggle with mental illness. The greatest lesson that this documentary taught me was the lack of representation individuals like Carol and Justine get in the popular media, and how relevant their struggles are. Mental Health is an issue that is surrounded by stigma, but it is present in our society in ways that cannot be ignored. Out of Mind, Out of Sight provides a short look into the lives of those that often do not get the chance to talk about their lives and struggles, and it does so in a way that informs, and hopefully leaves the spectator with a bigger understanding of what living with mental illness entails.