Organized by Spiritual Life, the screening of the documentary “The Blue Inmates” took place on Tuesday, October 18 at 5:30 pm at Haigazian University’s Mehagian auditorium. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Director Zeina Daccache, and Yusef one of the ex-inmates/actors.
Zeina Daccache is a Drama Therapist, Clinical Psychologist, Trainer, Actress and the Founder & Executive Director of Catharsis – Lebanese Center for Drama Therapy, Lebanon’s first organization dedicated to theatre as a social and psychological therapy tool. Zeina received her M.A in Clinical Psychology from HU, and after studying Drama Therapy in USA, returned to Lebanon.
Her journey into Lebanese prisons began after she founded her NGO Catharsis. She started her first drama therapy project in Roumieh prison in 2007. Zeina started to work on “The Blue Inmates” documentary in 2016, which saw the light in 2021.
Prisoners suffering from mental illness were portrayed by actual inmates, conveying their messages to decision makers to change the status of those forgotten behind bars. The Lebanese Penal Code, enacted in 1943, stipulates that “Insane,” “Mad,” or “Possessed” offenders shall be incarcerated until evidence of “cure” is produced. Therefore, mentally ill offenders are in fact receiving a life sentence, especially with insufficient psychological and medical care provided.
With the consistent support of some courageous judges and members of parliament, Catharsis has been able to change laws and free several inmates, who have gone back to a dignified life. One of those ex-inmates is Yusef who was present with Zeina Daccache on the day of the film’s screening at Haigazian University.
“The Blue Inmates” documentary left the audience speechless. During the interactive Q&A with Zeina and Yusef, some of the questions asked were: What was Zeina’s source of motivation to keep going despite all the challenges she faced for several years; what advice could she give to the new generation to have hope amidst all the chaos; how
Drama Therapy ended up amending several laws; in what ways could this generation support Zeina to pressure the government into taking care of those marginalized human beings; how did Yusef spend his days in prison for 30 years, what was the worst thing.
Despite all the obstacles Zeina faced along the way, for years, her persistence paid off. She was able to change laws and lives through art – Drama Therapy.