Being There

Summer Classics Series: Two Standout Comedies from the 1970s
Wednesday, July 16 – 7:30pm
USA 1979. Director: Hal Ashby
Cast: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard Dysart

ImagePeter Seller’s Oscar-nominated performance in Being There is one of the most remarkable of his career. Directed by Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude, Shampoo, Coming Home), and adapted by Jerzy Kosinski from his short comic novel of the same name, the film stars Sellers as Chance, a developmentally challenged middle-aged man-child who works as a gardener for a wealthy Washington, D.C. citizen. Chance has never been outside the walls of his employer’s estate; his only knowledge of the world has been gleaned from endless hours of television. When his benefactor dies, Chance, impeccably dressed in his employer’s well-tailored clothes, is cast out into the world for the first time in his life. An accident brings him into the orbit of a wealthy, well-connected industrialist (Melvyn Douglas, in an Oscar-winning supporting role) and his wife (Shirley MacLaine). They take him for a man of substance and depth, and soon Washington’s political elite — including even the President of the United States — is mistaking Chance’s innocent horticultural platitudes (“Spring is a time for planting!”) for insightful metaphors on economic policy. Being There is a delightful work that satirizes celebrity, media-obsession, television, and politics — a film that has not lost its bite and relevance with the passing of time. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how the developmentally disabled are depicted in film. Colour, 35mm. 130 mins.

Post-screening discussion with Alanna Hendren, Executive Director of the Developmental Disabilities Association (DDA). In operation since 1952, DDA provides community-based services from birth through old age to people with special needs in Vancouver and Richmond. Alanna has worked in the developmental disabilities field since 1980, and has been recognized for her work around such issues as early childhood development, systems transformation, community development, dual diagnosis, and the closure of institutions for people with developmental disabilities.

Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.

Co-sponsored by the Developmental Disabilities Association.


Frames of Mind is a monthly film event utilizing film and video to promote professional and community education on issues pertaining to mental health and illness.