Cured is a film that celebrates the struggle for LGBTQ rights in an era where a simple line in a book stole their freedom for decades. This film has a direct motive in highlighting and educating its audience, to which it does so tremendously.
The story of social and medical injustice carried out by medical boards in the US comes alive through newly rediscovered archive footage, original interviews and a keen sense of just what was at stake. The psychological impact of being medically defined as a sick, sexual pervert was often devastating and warped generations’ mental health, but fighting back was the best cure.
For the uninitiated about this horrid story, much like myself, actually. The battle for members of the LGBT community had early in the last century with psychologists, the government and society in general about the classification on whether homosexuality was truly a mental disorder. Yes, this may come as a surprise for young audiences, but this is true and Cured details the fight that these heroes had to do to have their sexuality seen as normal in society.
Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer’s Cured compels you from the first minutes, showing the viewer the methods used in the 40s and 50s by institutions who felt that homosexuality was an illness and could and would not be swayed otherwise. Seeking the effects of shock treatment and lobotomies on these innocent men and women is shocking and will shock those unaware of such acts. Though for such a repressed period it may not be entirely surprising to see people who were not white or straight treated so unfairly.
This wholly bleak picture of what life was like for people during this time is haunting, the constant living in fear. The documentary informs us that the vast majority decided to marry someone from different gender and merely hide their true sexuality. Those who were not committed were effectively ostracised from their communities, with government agencies declaring that anyone viewed themselves as anything other than heterosexual unfit to work.
This total misguided and misuse of power culminates in the 60s, spurred on by civil rights activism. Gay activists finally find the confidence to stand up for their own rights. From here, they focus their sights on the American Psychiatric Association, the people who hold over all the control of their lives. Each person interviewed who fought this fight get ample time to show their feelings and what they brought to help revert that.
Wisely choosing to use specially filmed interviews and archival interviews for those main activists who have since passed away. We can see the full scope of their efforts, from the blinding hope that they will succeed when all appears lost, to the political nature of how they integrated themselves into the APA. Some of the more shocking archival footage is saved for instances such as when talk show host David Susskind used his platforms to discuss gay rights with six lesbians in 1971.
He continually leans on the premise that if the most intelligent of our society (psychiatrists) have not altered their opinion, so then in essence the sheer amount of evidence dictates that they are right. Happily, he is continually shot down with this thought, but the fact that even only 50 years ago, this could (and still is in some places in the world) be said on national television so freely, brings the reality and the battle these men and women were up against.
Our filmmakers carefully navigated through the decades and built up the activists’ momentum as they get little victories here and there. Their work’s importance cannot be lost here as we see the LGBT community begin to turn the tide of their former foes” opinion. We see how some psychiatrists are swayed easily, having only accepting the research and never delving more into it as it may not have been their main field. Then we also have Dr Charles W. Socarides. Who clung to his reasoning that being homosexual was an illness that he simply could not accept the changes his colleagues allowed to happen.
Using some terrific restoration work on photo’s, audio or only archive footage; we get as clear a picture as we will ever get to this struggle making Cured essential viewing for everyone. This information could easily have been forgotten in a short number of years, and documentaries such as this are vital to learning how society began to change for the better. These pioneers deserve to be remembered, and this is as much an educational piece for audiences (young and old) as it is just a documentary feature.
One of the only frustrating things, when you watch Cured, is not what we are being told; it knows the fact that the APA and other organisations almost resorted back to the way they were, just with a different target. Instead of homosexuality, they went for what they called gender dysphoria in the 80s. How they never learned their failures as doctors will forever remain a mystery.
While the documentary is highly informative, it never tries to be more than that. There are no flashy filmmaking tricks to keep the audience’s attention due to the simple fact that it never intends to show off. It wants to educate and highlight. By keeping it simple, allows the message to resonate more and stay with you, which as we know is an art within itself. This is a deep dive through the resilience of the activists and compels you from start to finish.
Cured moves you a great deal; you would find it hard not to be moved as we see the struggles everyone went through today so that people who view themselves in the same way, could have more freedom. It is also a film that doesn’t forget to remind the audience that there is still a long way to go while great leaps have been made. Like equality and civil rights, this is still only the start.
To view more of our coverage of BFI Flare, please check out our other reviews below.
I am but a small website in this big wide world. As much as I would love to make this website a big and wonderful entity. That would bring in more costs. So, for now, all I hope is to make Upcoming On Screen self-sufficient. Well enough to where any website fees are less of a worry for me in the future. You can support the website below…
You can support us in a variety of ways (other than that wonderful word of mouth) and those lovely follows. If you are so inclined to help out then you can support us via Patreon, find our link here! We don’t want to ask much from you, so for now we have limited our tiers to £1.50 and £3.50. These will of course grow the more we plan to do here at Upcoming On Screen.
Thanks for reading, every view helps us out more than you would think (we have fragile egos). Until next time.