Richard Cohen Films - Hurry Tomorrow
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History of Hurry Tomorrow

6.  Watching Hurry Tomorrow with Governor Brown on July 4th 1976

"You have seen for yourselves why patients complain of being zombified..."
 

    "Hurry Tomorrow corroborates our own findings; that the wholesale use of tranquilizers is intended
     to suppress behavior--not facilitate therapy.  You have seen for yourselves why patients complain
     of being zombified …"  
        Press Release Medical Rights Committee ACLU undated
        Chloe Kennedy, Mark Kleiman, Richard Walden   Read more...

     Spring 1976.  State health director Jerome Lackner watched our 16mm film in a small crowded conference room of the Los Angeles District Attorney.  It worried me that I was asked to attend.  I thought the authorities might be thinking of taking legal action against Kevin and I because of the press conference calling for the film to be banned.  This wasn’t the case. 

     Immediately after watching Hurry Tomorrow Dr. Lackner spoke: If this is how our staff members treat patients when there are cameras present you can imagine what they do when there are no cameras.  He went on to paraphrase Dostoyevsky’s words about a society being judged by the art it produces: Our society will be judged by the way we treat people in our institutions.  That screening turned out to be a preliminary step of a much larger statewide investigation into the deaths of more than a thousand patients in California’s state hospitals over a three year period.

     Next I traveled to Sacramento to project Hurry Tomorrow for Secretary of Health and Welfare Mario Obledo.  Watching the film with us in an otherwise empty room were two men in pinstripe suites.  They represented the state employees union in their quest to ban the documentary.  Secretary Obledo stopped the film after twenty minutes.  He had seen enough.  He announced that he was recommending to the Governor that no legal action be taken against the filmmakers.  Then Obledo left the room.

     To make a long story short: Governor Brown watched Hurry Tomorrow at the home of Dr. Lackner in the early hours of July 4, 1976.  It was a memorable bi-centennial celebration.  Until then Brown had avoided demonstrators from the Network Against Psychiatric Assault who had been holding a round the clock vigil in his outer office since late June.  They were protesting involuntary treatment. A few of the Governor's advisors including Doctor Lackner and Secretary Obledo had stopped by to talk with protestors.  At least two NAPA members attended the midnight show: Wade Hudson and Ted Chabasinski.  A reporter for public radio was present and so was Deirdre Carrigan.  Mrs. Lackner cooked up spaghetti topped with a tasty soybean marinara sauce.  I have tried many times to duplicate that sauce.

     After we watched the film Governor Brown asked Dr. Lackner questions like “Can we do this to our citizens?” and “How many patients are capable of deciding whether or not to take the meds?” 

     Dr. Lackner knelt on the floor in front of Brown to answer the latter question.

     With outstretched arms he illustrated his words by measuring an imaginary population of patients: Then bringing his hands close together as if to clap he said: Only ten-percent of these people are incapable of deciding for themselves whether or not to take the medications.    For more than an hour Brown listened and talked with us. He pledged to investigate the state hospitals and agreed to visit Metropolitan where Hurry Tomorrow was filmed.
 
     "Spent the Fourth of July morning watching the movie and discussing the issue of people get hypodermic
     needles in their rear-ends down at the State Hospital..."
       Press Conference, California Governor Jerry Brown July 7, 1976   Read more...    

      When Dr. Lackner first watched Hurry Tomorrow in the District Attorney’s office present in the room was the chief Coroner’s Hearing Officer.   He must have been investigating already the death of patients at Metropolitan Hospital.   To my knowledge no one died on the ward where we filmed.  However in a story later broadcast on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite footage of a Coroner’s Inquest shows a Metropolitan staff psychiatrist pleading he is unfit to testify about deaths on his ward.  Not ‘normal’.  We show that doctor at a monthly meeting between hospital psychiatrists and pharmaceutical salesmen or detail men as they call them.  He describes the awful reactions of his female patient to the medications.  He searches for another brand to try on her.

       California / Mental Hospitals -- Dec 22, 1976 -- CBS -- TV news ...
     "CBS News for Dec 22, 1976: 3 doctors and 5 other employees of Camarillo State ... (Los Angeles, California) 
       (Scenes from documentary  "Hurry Tomorrow" shown. ..."   Read more… 


      Fifteen years later I met with film director Taylor Hackford regarding a different project of mine.  During our conversation he recalled that Hurry Tomorrow broke the bigest news story in California the year after it was realeased.  In the mid-1970s he was a reporter at KCET the PBS station in Los Angeles.  Taylor Hackford was responsible for the national PBS broadcast of Hurry Tomorrow.  He and I cut the film to a 58 minute broadcast length.    

     "A cinema verite expose of current methods to treat poor patients in state mental hospitals
     across the country…."
        KCET Press Release for PBS national broadcast, October 1977   Read more...

     "Hurry Tomorrow is the most important film on hospital life to emerge in the last ten years and
     goes way beyond Titicut Follies or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in its indictment of mental
     hospital conditions...beautifully made."  
        The Documentary Conscience by Alan Rosenthal (UC Berkeley Press, 1980)          
        Read more… interview with Richard Cohen...  

 
 
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