Friday, June 01, 2007

Where's Molly?

Say you're a young boy, around six years old. You live in a nice house with your mother and your father and your adored younger sister who's two-and-a-half. The two of you laugh and play constantly and you teach her to play ball. Then one morning you wake up and she's gone. If you ask where she is, you're punished or, worse, completely ignored. Your mother becomes distant and emotionally unavailable, your father depressed.

This is the story of Jeff Daly and his sister Molly as told in the movie "Where's Molly?" It follows Jeff, a documentary filmmaker, as he tries to find out what happened, not just to his sister, but to himself and his family. It also tells the story of the Fairview Training Center in Salem, Oregon, where Molly lived for 47 years. Called the State Institution for the Feeble-Minded when it was opened in 1910, the center was originally considered a state-of-the-art facility for thousands of disabled or mentally challenged toddlers to adults whose families decided to commit them to a lifetime in an institution. It was closed in 2000 for civil rights violations and failure of Fairview to protect residents from harm.

Part love story, part heartbreaker, it's a moving and sometimes horrifying account of how we treat those who are different, often with a terrible cost to ourselves and our families. It has a happy, even an uplifting, conclusion as Jeff works to pass legislation to make it easier for family members to find their relatives who may have been committed to institutions. It's very worth your time to seek out this movie and, though it's not currently available at the Multnomah County Library, you can buy a copy through the website.

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