Films are sometimes used purely as entertainment; however, other times they are used to portray important and powerful stories. This month, the DeWitt Learning Commons is showing “The Men of Atalissa” to teach a lesson that few are aware of.
The film will be shown at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30 in the Vogel Room. The film is based on the book “The Boys in the Bunkhouse” by Dan Barry, which is currently being promoted by every library within Sioux County as part of the One Book, One Sioux County program. One of the coordinators for the showing is Greta Grond, who gave a brief summary of the film.
“In the 1970s, a number of mentally-challenged men were relocated to Iowa to work in turkey-processing plants,” Grond said. “They lived in an old schoolhouse in Atalissa, Iowa. The men received very little pay for their labor, plus they lived in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Often, they were abused physically or emotionally. Their situation was finally made public in 2009 by reporters from the Des Moines Register and a number of social workers.”
Grond and the rest of the Learning Commons employees want to raise awareness of issues like what happened to the men of Atalissa.
“Men such as the men of Atalissa are some of our most vulnerable, and it’s important we do not turn away from them,” Grond said. “We often entrust others to care for the vulnerable, but how do we know about the quality of the care they’re providing? Giving people with disabilities appropriate jobs seems like a good idea, but how do we know when it turns to exploitation?”
Grond said the story has regional interest as the events take place in a small town in Iowa. Also, the film is only around 35 minutes long.
Some students are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity.
“It’s surprising to hear that something like this happened in a small town in Iowa,” sophomore Andrew Jones said. “I’ve had friends who were mentally-challenged, so I’ll try to go see the film to hear these men’s full stories and support care for the mentally-challenged.”
“It’s definitely surprising to hear about something like this, because I have never heard about Atalissa or any situation similar to these men,” freshman Ryan Altman said. “I’m definitely interested in hearing their stories and learning something new about subjects I don’t know much about.”
Many people assume events like the story of “The Men of Atalissa” don’t occur in small towns, but they do. That’s why the Learning Commons is hosting the movie: to raise awareness for these issues and to support and protect those who need it.