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TitleAgainst her Will, The Carrie Buck Story (1994) (TV Film)
Alternative/Original Title
DisabilityGeneral Sterilization
GenreTrue story
DirectorJohn David Coles
CastMarlee Matlin Melissa Gilbert Pat Hingle Peter Frechette
NotesSet in Virginia, 1947 M.M.... plays a young woman with a baby. She is living in a large house with others and when she sees another baby crying she breast feeds it. Well, the consternation this creates you might imagine she'd been caught shaking the baby to death. The official result is that her baby is taken away from her and she is institutionalised. Now it's an awful fact that you don't have to go back many years in civilised countries like the U.S.A... or Britain to find conditions so appalling you'd think the Nazis had won the war. In Britain of the late forties, early fifties thousands of children from children's' homes were packed off to Australia. Here in this film we witness Virginia in 1947 wanting to sterilise most of the inmates (they can't be called patients) in mental institutions. These include those who were mentally ill, had learning difficulties or conditions like epilepsy. This at a time when it should have been fresh in people's minds what the Nazis had promulgated and carried out under the name of medical progress. The case of Carrie Buck is well documented and follows an interesting twist. The authorities in charge of the mental institutions have been sued for their policy of sterilisation now they want to be sued again, and win, so they will have a free reign throughout the county and then the country. With the courage of their convictions they also want to include in the sterilisation process the feeble-minded, the shiftless, the ignorant and the antisocial. Is there any of us left? Carrie is put to work on a farm where her breasts hurt because of the milk they're carrying and any woman will tell you what a sensitive area that is. But it demonstrates just how insensitive are the 'nurses and doctors' in this hospital. Carrie is chosen as a guinea pig for the court case because she has no relatives. But she is noticed by a well-to-do young woman who just happens to be the niece of the director of the hospital, is a trainee lawyer and who is courting the lawyer chosen to represent Carrie. At the first meeting of the hospital board Carrie is described as the lowest grade moron who is incurably, congenitally defective. She has already had an illegitimate child and if she isn't sterilised the state will have to support all her offspring. It turns out that her defence lawyer is a set-up and Carrie is coached to say what will condemn her from her own mouth. Despite the efforts of the young woman supporting her Carrie Buck was sterilised. A pity that this film dwells so long on the romance between the two lawyers. M.M.. plays the part as someone who is cut off from society whether that be the authorities or her fellow inmates. There is a sense when she approaches anyone that she is touching an electric fence to see whether she can stand the shock. Mostly she acts instinctually and is usually right. Yet at the same time she is easily manipulated because she holds back her own feelings and cannot, literally, express them. This film is 47 years too late for Carrie Buck.

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