For a tale of misery, woe and black despair, a surprisingly optimistic film. Focusing on Parma, this documentary (really two, put together by a collective) claims insanity as a social disease, the predictable result of compounding poverty with ignorance, and banishing the halt and lame to secretive (often church-run) institutions where they are beaten and tormented. The film's unspoken question is who is really insane, the inmates or their cruel keepers. Certainly Paolo, the youngest of the cases studied, does not seem mad. Although oblivious to the discipline of parents or school, and forever tugging at jumper, hat or hair, Paolo's discussion of his problem shows a reasoning unclouded by naivety or insanity. He's not looking for a miracle, but he knows what would help - a job. And as Part Two shows, the effects of just this upon the truly mentally handicapped can be miraculous when the job comes complete with fellow-workers who offer friendship as well as instruction.
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