Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 100 min
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
is as explosive today as it was when first released. Considered one of the world's great modern documentaries, the film chronicles seven weeks in the lives of 12 emotionally disturbed children and the therapists who force them to confront their pain.
At the core of the film are images of the children acting out their unbearable rage while being physically restrained by the Warrendale staff using their "holding therapy” approach. King shows that both the kids and the therapists are more than pawns in an institutional game; as they move through their daily routines, they become one big supportive (yet unwieldy) family. In the film’s unexpected climax, everyone at Warrendale is tested by a shared tragedy that shakes the entire institution.
This classic of direct cinema clearly established Allan King as a leading practitioner of the approach, which King also referred to as an “actuality drama." Although the film is an undeniably emotional experience, it does raise formal and ethical questions similar to those posed by other direct cinema films: How is the material selected? Is this a violation of privacy?
The CBC, surprised by the extreme language the adolescents often used, sat on the film for months before deciding not to broadcast it. A month later, Warrendale won the Prix d'art et d'essai at the Cannes Film Festival, followed shortly thereafter by the best feature length documentary prize from the National Society of Film Critics (U.S.) and the British Academy Award for best foreign film. It also won film of the year at the Canadian Film Awards. It was finally broadcast on Canadian television in 1999.