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Filmmaker Barri Cohen leads part detective story, part social history in Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children as she uncovers the truth about Alfie and Louis, her two long-dead half-brothers. They were institutionalized at the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia in the 1950s, with one brother unceremoniously buried in secret in an unmarked grave as a small child. Their lives were cut short, but their story stands as a microcosm of the immense tragedy of the western world’s 20th century disastrous treatment of intellectually disabled children and youth. Through the interwoven narratives of a POV family story with critical institution survivors, a question preoccupies the film: how do we allow ourselves to dehumanize the most vulnerable people in our care?
Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children is a heartbreaking yet redemptive work that moves outwards from a highly personal and painful family secret to an investigation of hidden, searing truths about an entire government-enabled system of institutional cruelty and ugliness against vulnerable children. Yet, humanity is hopefully restored by assembling community and survivor testimony, along with the filmmaker’s insistence that these experiences be fully recognized and memorialized.
2022 | Canada | 90 mins
Barri Cohen, Director, Writer, Executive Producer
Cohen is the past National Executive Chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada, past editor and publisher and current columnist of Point of View Magazine and was the co-chair and co-founding member (1994 – 1996) of the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival. She is currently developing a family drama/comedy series, writing a memoir collection with essays, and studying psychoanalysis.