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Traumatic ImprintsCinema, Military Psychiatry, and the Aftermath of War$
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Noah Tsika

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297630

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297630.001.0001

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Solemn Venues

Solemn Venues

War Trauma and the Expanding Nontheatrical Realm

(p.48) Chapter 2 Solemn Venues
Traumatic Imprints

Noah Tsika

University of California Press

In 1943, the army psychiatrist George S. Goldman began to develop a series of documentaries that could “contribute to mental health” by “removing some of the mystery connected with psychiatry and by properly explaining many of the misconceptions commonly connected with this specialty.” The hope was that such films would help rehabilitate affected veterans and also prevent future psychiatric casualties, and, in the process, that they would solidify the military’s reputation as a “healthful” set of institutions—or, at the very least, as institutions capable of providing effective psychiatric treatment for those in need. Because the so-called neuropsychiatric problem had become so large, threatening to “amount to the largest medical-social problem this country [had] ever faced,” documentary film was deemed necessary as a flexible instrument of education, rehabilitation, and public relations. Because the resulting films dealt with “death and the fear of death,” they were deemed widely relevant, particularly during the nuclear age. Their “focus is on the wartime patient,” noted a 1953 manual, “but the psychodynamics portrayed are generally applicable,” making these films helpful for the population at large. The postwar passage of the National Mental Health Act (1946) and the emergence of a bona fide mental health movement seemed to confirm this power, as government and civilian agencies continued to find new uses for the documentaries.

Keywords:   cinema, military psychiatry, documentary, trauma, war trauma, World War II, amateur film, industrial film

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