Our Lucky Hours

Our Lucky Hours

Documentary Film
77 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Alexandre Cornu
Martine Deyres
Olivier Brisson, Nicola Marinoni
Jean-Christophe Beauvallet, Dino Berguglia, Antoine-Marie Meert
Philippe Boucq, Catherine Catella, Martine Deyeres
Martine Deyeres, Anne Paschetta
Olivier Hespel, Marianne Roussy, Olivier Schwob
Between 1939 and 1945, 45,000 patients died in French mental institutions. There was only one place where the patients survived the euthanasia: the hospital in the remote village of Saint-Alban. In addition, the doctors, nursing staff and patients there worked with the residents of the village to hide a number of war refugees, resistance fighters and persecuted Jews and thus save them from certain death.

What made Saint-Alban so exceptional? During her research, director Martine Deyres found photos, home movies and sound recordings in the hospital archives. She uses this material to draw the portrait of an institution that was far ahead of its time. The patients were respected, integrated and individually supported. By working in the household or on the fields, they also contributed, especially during the war, to the fact that no one in Saint-Alban had to go hungry. There was a patient newspaper and various arts and crafts classes. Auguste Forestier’s wooden sculptures even became famous as “art brut”, when the painter Jean Dubuffet discovered the works of the Saint-Alban patient after the war. All this coalesces into a rousing plea for a respectful treatment of the mentally ill, which is more important than ever in an age of economic constrictions and strong normative tendencies.

Luc-Carolin Ziemann