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Triumph at Carville

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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(Apr 01, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This film documents the triumph over leprosy by looking at one of the most unusual communities in American history, Carville,"" a refuge for leprosy patients from all over the world. Crafted from contemporary interviews, exclusive photographs and more, the film takes viewers inside Carville, introducing them to patients, doctors and staff who lived and worked there. The narratives are underscored by original music by Grammy-winner Bela Fleck.

Review

Officially called U.S. Marine Hospital No. 66, the compound at Carville
has for more than a century been an international destination for patients
suffering from Hansen's disease, commonly known as leprosy.

Built around the remains of a run-down plantation, the center opened in 1894 and is still home to several patients.

Caused by a bacterium, the infectious disease -- a disfiguring biblical scourge that's treatable due in part to research done at Carville but still not entirely understood -- continues to afflict about 200 Americans each year. Worldwide estimates are poorly documented, but annual estimates of new diagnoses top 750,000.

That tiny Carville, about 60 miles upriver from New Orleans, came to be a global nexus for patient care and treatment is but one of the stories told in "Triumph."

Staffed by Daughters of Charity nuns but administered by the federal government, the center was a unique church-and-state partnership that was both a haven and a kind of prison for patients, some of whom were committed and confined there against their will.

Old photos, radio broadcasts and newsreel-type films illuminate the
first-person stories told by longtime patients, their offspring, doctors,
staffers and administrators.

The stories are not always uplifting. According to the film, locals didn't
universally welcome the hospital's residents, such were the horrors of the disease's symptoms.

Says one former director of the center, "Let's put it this way: They were treated like lepers."

And yet, according to a title card flashed early in the film, none of the
workers at Carville ever caught the disease.

On the inside, life was lived as fully as it could be, as evidenced by
stories about Mardi Gras and Christmas celebrations, weddings, a
patient-published newsletter, and the occasional breakout runs to LSU football games or a nearby roadhouse.

One of the more heartbreaking facts of life at Carville was that children
of married patients were removed to orphanages or foster care.

And yet, witnesses to life there interviewed for the film recall its
heyday in mostly warm terms, despite such sometimes sad history. (Decommissioned as a federal center in 1999 -- and after hosting more than 5,000 resident patients -- it's now overseen by the Louisiana National Guard.)

Among the outsiders interviewed are political consultant/commentator
James Carville (who explains how the town got his family's name) and former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who comments on the lessons learned during the ill-conceived quarantine days.

The soundtrack, composed and performed by banjo master Bela Fleck (aided bysuch killer players as bassist Edgar Meyer and dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas), is a haunting and subtle aural base built around instrumentation including bass harmonica, wood flute and clarinet.

The filmmakers are Sally Squires, a Washington Post reporter, and John
Wilhelm, a former Time magazine science correspondent.

Squires began making reporting visits to Carville nearly two decades ago. Her trips resulted eventually in a National Public Radio documentary and now this troubling, challenging, beautiful film. --The Times-Picayune by Columnist Dave Walker March 27, 2008

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Directors: John Wilhelm, Sally Squires
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    PG
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: April 1, 2008
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012M1KYA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,282 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This document is a compassionate film about the most misunderstood disease in the world. Even though patients were discouraged from having children, my brother and I were fortunate to have two patients as our parents.
My mother would not speak to anyone about her life. Sally Squires was able to draw her story out with respect and understanding. My father trusted her to tell the story without fear of sensationalism.
Anyone who sees this film will come away with a better understanding of what it means when the doctors says you have leprosy.
Anne Harmon Brett
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As someone who lives and works in the other settlement for patients with Hansen's Disease in the United States, Kalaupapa - Hawaii, I had a keen interest in this film. Many of our resident patients have spent time at the facility in Carville and this film helps give depth to the stories I have heard about this location. Like patients here, their patients have endured suffering and isolation unfamiliar to most in our country. This was a beautiful telling of the story of Carville and I appreciate the honesty of the film maker in sharing all aspects of the story of the patients of Carville. Mahalo nui loa
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My family really enjoyed this documentary. I had no idea that leprosy -- and a hospital where victims of the disease were forced to go -- existed in the United States, let alone in the Louisiana bayou. The beautiful footage and heartfelt sound track by Bela Fleck make it a really amazing journey into an untold history.
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A wonderful tale of people who really knew how to love life in spite of such difficulties.
Very inspirational. Highly recommend it.
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Excellent perspective on a little known piece of American History from one who grew up around it
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A great history of Hansen's Disease (formerly called Leprosy) in the US. Heart-string-tugging, courageous people. I show it in classes sometimes, and the students always enjoy it.
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