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ReThink Review: Marwencol -- When Therapy Becomes Art

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If there's any justice in the world, Jeff Malmberg's stunning debut documentary Marwencol will be nominated for the best documentary Oscar, having already won numerous awards including the Grand Jury Award at SXSW, the Cinematic Vision award at SilverDocs, and even Best Film at Comic-Con. It's the kind of film that makes you thankful that documentaries -- and movies in general -- exist at all, giving viewers the chance to go deep within the life and mind of a singularly fascinating individual.

Marwencol tells the story of Mark Hogancamp, who was attacked by five men outside a bar in New York state on April 8, 2000, who literally beat him within an inch of his life. Hogancamp's brain was so severely damaged that his memory was erased to the point that he had to relearn how to walk, write and feed himself. His physical and mental therapy had begun to show progress -- that is, it did until America's "best-in-the-world" healthcare system abandoned him when he could no longer pay for his treatment. So Hogancamp invented his own therapy by creating a 1/6th-scale World War II-era Belgian town in his backyard called Marwencol, and populated it with dolls representing himself, friends and family.

Watch my ReThink Review of Marwencol on the Young Turks below, along with a discussion about how the mentally ill often end up homeless or in jail.

As I mentioned on the Young Turks, Hogancamp was incredibly lucky to find a method of therapy that worked once he was dropped from America's healthcare system, since the future that awaits most mentally ill people in the US is shamefully bleak. Despite the fact that our understanding of mental illness has greatly advanced over the decades, the US has returned to the bad old days of treating the mentally ill as criminals instead of the victims of disease. From Psychiatric News:

More than half of prison and jail inmates were found to have a mental health problem, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics in September. About a third of state prisoners (34 percent) with a mental health problem received treatment during incarceration, while only 17 percent of jail inmates did.

Jail inmates reported the highest rate of mental health problems (60 percent), followed by state (49 percent) and federal prisoners (40 percent).

Numbers like that are a disgrace, especially when you consider that putting a mentally ill person in prison would only make their condition worse, requiring more incarceration and more care. In my research, I came upon this powerful segment on Al Jazeera English about the mentally ill in our nation's prisons.

Part 1 of "Fault Lines: Mental Illness in US Prisons".

Part 2

To find out more about Marwencol, go to Marwencol.com.

For more ReThink Reviews, visit ReThinkReviews.net

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