Let There Be Light

Thursday August 16, 2004 – 7:30 pm
USA, 1946. Director: John Huston

In 1945, the US military was concerned that prejudice was hindering the reintegration into the work force of soldiers who had returned from the war suffering from mental illness. They instructed John Huston, a Captain in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corp-based film unit and one of the most eminent directors in their ranks, to make a film combating this problem. Huston spent three months in 1946 at Mason General Hospital in New Jersey documenting absurdly effective treatment: psychologically-derived paralysis is cured, depression lifted and shell-shock calmed, by interventions such as group discussion, hypnosis, individual treatment, occupational therapy and – of course – baseball. Fearing the perception that war service leads to subsequent mental distress, however, the military’ view shifted. The film was suppressed by the Army until it was screened at Cannes in 1981after a public campaign by Huston and the American screen community. Surrounded by a strange tangle of ambivalence and fear around the topic of mental illness, Let There be Light is propaganda, but made by the most interesting and humane of directors. B&W, 16mm, 68 mins.

Preceded by

San Pietro

USA 1945 Dir: John Huston (uncredited)

Huston’s classic wartime documentary movie is about the battle of San Pietro, a small village in Italy. Over 1,100 US soldiers were killed while trying to take this location, that blocked the way for the Allied forces from the Germans. “We moved up through the area of attacks and counter-attacks … I remember remarking to someone that we had seen more dead that day than living.” – John Huston. B&W, 16mm, 32 mins.

The program will include a post-screening discussion with:
Ramon Kubicek
: writer, artist, educator. Ramon currently teaches film history as well as art and design history at Emily Carr Institute. He has published short fiction, poetry, criticism, a book on art, “One Source”, and worked on film documentaries.

Evening moderated by:
Dr. Harry Karlinsky
Director of Continuing Medical Education and Professional Development, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.