I'm very pleased to share this production and, in many ways, this has been one of the most challenging This Is Arkansas features that we've ever produced. I had it in my mind and heart to do for nearly an entire year, too, so I was especially pleased when it all finally came together in my mind to where I could get started on it. I also want to make it clear that I'm not an expert in this field so it may be that those who know more than I find errors in various portions of what I've produced and shared here...if so, I'll ask for your forgiveness in advance and I hope that any such isolated errors on my part don't detract from the strength and purpose of the overall production.
I will say that I did do my best and spent a lot of time searching and scouring the Internet for historically authentic photos and art work to accurately portray all of the content and subject matter within this production and, for the most part, I'm content with how things turned out. I never set out to make such a long production but, once things got started, this became one of those projects that took on a life of its own and simply went where it wanted to go. And even then, there are still a lot of things that I wish that I could have either included or covered better. I wish that I could have spent more time on the poor farms and poor houses because these actually served an important societal purpose at the time and there were no doubt many good ones...they simply weren't equipped for the care and treatment of the mentally ill and that was of no fault of their own. Likewise, I didn't mean to or desire to cast all of the asylums, hospitals, and treatment centers of times past as inherently bad and evil places...though history explicitly makes it clear that many of them most certainly were. Most of them - especially those built according to the Kirkbride Plan - started out with very noble purposes and high ideas...but they were quickly and grossly overcrowded and frequently with people who simply didn't belong there. There were no doubt good attendants, nurses, doctors, superintendents and there were bad. And as still remains the case today from time to time, many people eagerly trained and aspired to work in such places out of true hearts and the best of intentions...only to find themselves over-worked and under-equipped as a result of insufficient funding and resources, inundated by a system that didn't work, surrounded by multitudes of inmates and patients- many of which didn't belong there, and lost within situations and scenarios for which they had not been trained and of which they had never expected. So while there are many truly repulsive and horrific horror stories of what poor and uncounted souls were forced to endure in the darkest of places and at the most evil of hands, there were also those fortunate souls who found what they needed in well managed facilities and in the company of kind-hearted individuals with a legitimate concern for their welfare -- there just weren't anywhere near as many. And so many of the asylums, hospitals, and facilities looked so dignified, majestic, and stately from the outside and at a casual passing glance...their outward appearances frequently and completely belied the utterly sinister house of horrors that actually existed within their walls.
And most of all - it's been my desire to produce this project in such a way that it might be received in a positive way that inspires hope and helps us appreciate where we are today as a society, what we know, all that we've learned along the way, and all of the wonderfully beautiful tools that we've managed to develop along the way. There are still things that are wrong, insufficient circumstances, problems to be found, and stinkers needing to be weeded out from the mix...but for those who suffer from mental illness and related conditions and for those who are in thus need of assistance, healing, and care - we have so much to be thankful for, so many people and places to be appreciative of, and more and greater reasons with which to be optimistic and positive than at any other time in history...and one can only assume that things will only continue to improve and get better as we move along.
W. Ray Bertram
Blind Man's Bluff Productions
Executive Director & Producer
W. Ray Bertram is "The Blind Film Maker of Arkansas."