CHANGING OUR MINDS: THE STORY OF DR. EVELYN HOOKER (1991) [Feature]

USA (MIFF 1992 , Documentaries)


During the McCarthy era, Dr Evelyn Hook­er took on the moral majority and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to prove, through a pioneer clinical study, homo­sexuality was neither sin, crime nor sickness requiring cure via hysterectomy, castration, shock treatment and/or lobotomy. It was a long battle against the ignorance of the medi­cal-scientific profession and beyond, culminat­ing in the belated expunging in 1974 of homosexuality from the APA's manual of medical disorders.

Director and co-writer Richard Kurt Schmiechen (producer of The Times Of Harvey Milk) takes Dr Hooker back over the battle ground to retrace her personal and profession­al lives in parallel and to reflect on a nation's understanding of sexuality. Twice married, the resilient doctor was buoyed in her long wait for recognition by her strong alliance with the gay community and friendships with the celebrity gay set including Christopher Isherwood, Stephen and Dale Spender and Raymond Chandler.

Changing Our Minds is a no-nonsense por­trait which sticks to its mandate to document the ground broken by an extraordinary woman. Nevertheless, Schmiechen rewards us further, thanks in no small way to the warm and amus­ing Dr Hooker herself. That a scientist can describe her work as achieving "the ability to love", it comes as no surprise her success is entirely underpinned by a rich emotional life.

• Anne Woodman

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