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Review: Forgotten Fools (2006)

Directed by: | 59 minutes |

The documentary “Vergeten fools” deals with victims of a special kind. During the war in Bosnia, in the heat of the battle, a group of psychiatric patients were taken to safe shelter in Hungary. Once it was peace, the patients were not allowed to return.

In “Forgotten fools” Frans van Erkel portrays the refugees and examines why these people are not allowed to go home. The result is a penetrating documentary. Frans van Erkel traveled back and forth between the institution in Debrecen and the members who live scattered across the former Yugoslavia. By focusing on their most characteristic traits, he sketches insightful portraits of the residents. As a viewer, you quickly sense sympathy for them. By asking the right questions, Van Erkel also knows how to clarify the problems and dilemmas of the family members.

As “Forgotten Fools” progresses, the difficulties turn out to be much more complex than thought. It will come as no surprise that the Bosnian embassy in Budapest is an impregnable fortress, according to good bureaucratic practice. More amazing is the attitude of the patients’ families. Sometimes people want little to do with the unfortunate family member, sometimes it turns out to cause division within the family itself. The latter in particular produces heartbreaking images.

What makes this documentary extra worthwhile is the visual aspect. The images of snowy Bosnian landscapes are perfect for framing, while a farmer in his stable seems to have stepped out of a painting. The fairly slow pace ensures that we can enjoy those images extensively. Frans van Erkel, for example, has made a visually appealing documentary that is gripping without lapsing into sentimentality. We see not only how the most vulnerable suffer from war violence, but also how psychiatric patients are often seen by family members as undesirable. None of that are shocking findings, but it does make you sad.

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