This documentary raises crucial questions about our definitions of mental health and healing as well as the meaning of forgiveness. It also illustrates how an individual’s ability to extract themselves from the grip of institutional power is highly dependent on luck and money and privilege. Perhaps most importantly, this piece gives voice, in a complex, respectful manner, to Ibrahim and other schizophrenics whose struggles remain buried and ignored. One element that is missing from this story is an account of how race complicates this unequal power dynamic. Ibrahim is black… “Hospital’s” impact might have been even wider had it briefly considered how the assumption of black male criminality might have played a role in Ibrahim’s long confinement.
Michelle Boyd’s work explores how ethnographic research methods, creative nonfiction writing and audio documentary can be combined to deepen public understanding, empathy, and critical consciousness about racial injustice. Michelle teaches in the African American Studies Department at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She reviews The Hospital Always Wins, produced by Laura Starecheski for State of the Re:Union (US 2013). Duration: 53’05’’. The Hospital Always Wins was named among the best audio narratives of 2013 by Harvard University’s Nieman Storyboard.