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The Last Stop - Documentary

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wilder

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on: April 16, 2020, 01:51:39 AM
Learned of this doc's existence after reading an online comic written and drawn by a survivor of the Élan program




The Élan School was a for-profit, residential behavior modification program and therapeutic boarding school located deep within the woods of Maine. Delinquent teenagers who failed to comply with other treatment programs were referred to the school as a last resort. Treatment entailed harsh discipline, surveillance, degradation, and downright abuse. Years later, the patients who were institutionalized in this facility still carry the trauma they endured, with mixed opinions on the impact of their experience.

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The instant you step foot on the former hunting grounds that was the Élan School, their rules and regulations come bearing down on you swiftly and mercilessly. Effective immediately, are rules like no speaking without permission, no entering rooms alone, no eye contact with the opposite sex, and mandated screaming at other residents on command. It was very “Lord of the Flies” – everything was run by the kids. Élan specialized in treating troubled youths with severe emotional and behavioral problems through an extreme mix of military, public humiliation, heavy surveillance, thought reform, group psychotherapy and milieu therapy tactics. The concept was, “That which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” A philosophically sound concept, that went dangerously awry.

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Élan was hailed by many to have been a last resort saving grace for incorrigible delinquent teens in crisis. Supporters of the program ranged from thousands of former students and parents to hundreds of psychologists, social workers, educational officials and national associations, many of whom have praised its tough love tactics. However, for every riveting success story that credits Élan with saving their life, there is a broken adult unable to recover from the harrowing trauma they faced there as a youth. Today, thousands of programs like Élan still exist throughout the United States and around the world with no government oversight, no regulation, and little to no advocacy.

Directed by Todd Nilssen
Release date - May 19, 2020 / available to pre-order from iTunes
Official Site

Quote from: About Todd Nilssen
The Last Stop is his first journey into writing, producing and directing a feature length documentary. The inspiration for the film came from his own experiences as a teenager, and as a graduate of the Élan program.


WorldForgot

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Reply #1 on: April 16, 2020, 11:36:17 AM
Holy cow, the resources + 'proof' attached to that comic. Will keep tabs on the doc, even its trailer gave me that pit in my stomach.


wilder

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Reply #2 on: May 27, 2020, 04:26:42 AM
Watched this the other week. The story is compelling and I want to support its shining a light on such a dark and ongoing blight on the world, but I'd also seriously recommend reading the comic mentioned above, in advance, which is its own artful accomplishment. I'm not sure I would have understood the documentary as well if I hadn’t read the unrelated comic, first, which relays a subjective, chronological account of one survivor’s experience. While the film also being made by former member of Elan definitely lends it credibility and provides a truly empathetic relationship with the interviewees, it's clear that it's a first-time outing in terms of its construction.

Throughout the doc, as we hear from former members, the practices and tactics of the Elan program are revealed, but piecemeal and out of order, prompted by the interview subjects relating personal memories instead of the school's structure being laid out at the beginning as way of setting a stage we as unfamiliar recipients of the information can easily understand.

This both works in the film’s favor and doesn’t. The smaller personal anecdotes operate as buffers to what could be a very sensationalistic account of the program’s sordid history, but on the flip side, there isn’t a super linear spine to help take us through the avalanche of information that results from the experiences being relayed.

Because students of Elan came from completely disparate backgrounds and were sent away for reasons dissimilar to each other, their personal journeys going through the program’s machinations don’t necessarily line up chronologically. Regardless, the former students are cut between as if this were the case. So we jump around a few seconds with this person and a few seconds with that person, not necessarily talking about the same thing happening at the same time, but with the film attempting to link the conversational threads as if they are.

At one point, as a few people are talking about addiction, a woman is revealed to have been a decades-long heroin user that died a couple years prior to the completion of the documentary. However, this woman returns as an interview subject discussing a different topic, later, after I was sure her segment had been given finality with a card announcing her death. This is one such example of the editing of all this footage needing tweaking, a bit.

The doc is now available from Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play




I’ve been hearing about more of these Troubled Teen Industry schools these past few weeks. These programs operate under various names with different leaders, but their frameworks all seem to trace back to the original incarnation of this kind of attack therapy cult, Synanon:

Quote from: Wikipedia
The Synanon organization was a violent cult, initially a drug rehabilitation program, founded by Charles E. "Chuck" Dederich Sr., (1913–1997) in 1958 in Santa Monica, California. By the early 1960s, Synanon had also become an alternative community, attracting people with its emphasis on living a self-examined life, as aided by group truth-telling sessions that came to be known as the "Synanon Game." Synanon ultimately became the Church of Synanon in the 1970s, and disbanded permanently in 1991 due to many criminal activities, including attempted murder, of which members were convicted, and legal problems, including losing its tax free status retroactively with the Internal Revenue Service due to financial misdeeds, destruction of evidence and terrorism. It has been called one of the "most dangerous and violent cults America had ever seen."


wilder

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Reply #3 on: June 25, 2021, 06:34:22 PM
This documentary is streaming on Prime, and the unrelated comic about elan (read it, it's incredible) is being published later this year.



Quote from: Joe Nobody
Okay, let me put on my sales hat real quick: you guys should know that I changed my Patreon Tiers and added a new $3 tier for anyone who wants to just see all the content currently on Patreon (like the new podcast conversations based on the questions you asked). I'm almost sold out of the $15 dollar first edition print-versions (pre-order) of the complete comic (only 2 left as of typing this). Also, I have been laying out my content into physical book form and based on my best estimates, the final product is probably going to end up being about this big:



So I am starting to think this may end up as a $40-60 retail kind of compilation. I was going to set the next pre-order tier price to $25, but I decided to offer a special $18 tier option just until the end of summer, so all the people who follow me can still jump on that deal! And again, just one month in a tier gets you the package and the longer you stay in that tier, the more you will get in the end.