Treatment Abuse, Behavior Modification, Thought Reform > Elan School

The Trailer for "The Last Stop "


Matt C. Hoffman:
A friend of mine is making a documentary called "the Last Stop " it is about Elan - It can be triggering to people that experienced this type of abuse as therapy. It went up yesterday, the first time I saw it a few hours ago -it made me cry. I had to call up my friend and  thank him - this is the trailer for his film. It is good to see Mary and Doug who were in Elan  with me during my time. Maia Salavitz is in this also. Gird yourself  accordingly - it is intense.

Wow, that was brutal and compelling. It looks really nicely done. I can't wait to wince and rage through the whole thing. Thanks for posting this and for the warning, Matt. I'm imagining what it must be like for your friend and others who have done documentaries to immerse themselves in this sort of material and to deal with all of the technical to do's and I'm newly impressed at what mettle it must take of those for whom the material is personal to bring it all together.

Matt C. Hoffman:

 Hi Inculcated,
You are welcome for the warning and thank you for your words - I am at a loss sometimes like the story you posted about the fellow in the system who is suing and being counter sued - I am at a loss for words though I am glad you brought that to "our" attention . just make me well you know -smh. and internally howl. 

Now as for mettle - yes - I agree and  I am truly amazed at the "genius" because you know I  write ( hack write ) - I have been accused of thinking that I am a writer - no worries  -  though at lest I can edit, most every where I write - and I can do it over and over until - it is right for  me and I can also keep going back depending just how compulsive I might become and with it and before I decided it is done, you follow me.

Writing a  book one has proofreaders and the like so you are not alone in that endeavor, it gets gone over by many - unless you are that good of course and you just do it all and self publish .  -  This rising film maker does this in his spare time, when he is not working  and it is he who does it no one else - that is "genius " because from what I also understand  the editing is the crux of the biscuit so to speak - it makes it or you have a just a lot  of film - there  are bad movies - out there and  they flop -   

 With film as I understand it - one can edit, edit ,and spend maybe  thirty hours editing for just a few minutes of film   - but when it is done it is done - when it is released  it is set in stone - it is really so much more than  just mettle and "genius" - and lots of time- I don't know ....

That  3 minute trailer - moved me to tears like I have said  from  my experience - my friend with such  sensitivity, and creativity  and that "genius" tells "our" story about that place in the back woods of Maine where no one could hear our screams  from physical/emotional pain. The mettle - the fortitude to tell it  so amazing  also  -  the justice  he is doing to the story  thru  using  that medium - I am in awe . Our story is going  to be told and in this day and age there aren't many that read, it is all video  faster to process - straight to the brain  a sad commentary on society -as  I go off on another tangent. 

 I am a musician first , a hack of a writer second  (maybe) and a father and husband all the time - I am no film maker - it is a gift that I will never understand - and  I love film, movies - like all do.

I also look forward to his documentary - with many (boxes) tissues at hand - why did he have to make it so compelling. I hear you inculcated and again nice to see you in these here parts - 



Get your tickets now!

Matt C. Hoffman:
Felice,  it is wicked good - here is the write up from the Lewiston Sunjournal  of the screening of the Last Stop that was shown yesterday at the Emerge Film Festival.

Elan film debuts at festival
By Lindsay Tice, Staff Writer
Published on Friday, Apr 28, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Last updated on Friday, Apr 28, 2017 at 9:09 pm
LEWISTON — For two hours Friday afternoon, Todd Nilssen stood in the back of the The Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center's screening room and watched people watch his film.
It was the first showing of "The Last Stop," Nilssen's just-finished documentary about the controversial Elan School for troubled teenagers in Poland. He was stressed, nervous.
But then: applause.
And more applause.
And strangers coming up and shaking his hand, fighting back tears, telling him they never knew Elan was so horrifying — "a demonic place," one man called it. They were shocked.
It was the reaction Nilssen had hoped for.
"Nobody knew it was going on," he said. "That's why I thought it was such a good subject for a documentary. Nobody knows that these places exist."
The film kicked off the second day of the Emerge Film Festival, a three-day Lewiston-Auburn event dedicated to independent films. Although it was a last-minute addition, the Elan documentary drew a crowd of about 50 people.
Elan was a private boarding school that operated between 1970 and 2011. Students, many from outside Maine, were typically sent there by courts, the foster care system or parents. By the time it closed in 2011, Elan was charging nearly $55,000 a year per student.
Over the years, the school was known for deploying such controversial tactics as forced boxing, physical punishments and screaming confrontations. Founders  Gerald Davidson, a psychiatrist, and Joseph Ricci, a businessman, publicly touted staff-encouraged beatings by other students, public humiliation and verbal "attack therapy."
Elan closed its doors in 2011 after declining enrollment and a dogged online campaign by former students determined to shut it down.
The two-hour film featured interviews with former Elan students and staff intercut with footage from a 1980s TV news expose on the school and re-enactments of students' stories of abuse. It led viewers from Elan's 1970 founding, through the school's philosophy and into the daily experiences of students — including some who had been abused at home, or had mental illnesses or autism.   
The film ended with a look at how Elan's now-adult students have fared. All of those interviewed said that after they left Elan they became addicted to drugs, got in trouble with the law, tried to kill themselves, had trouble functioning in normal social situations or struggled with post traumatic stress disorder.
"I have night terrors," one former student said in the film. "Most of the time I'm dreaming about Elan."
Nilssen, 29, attended Elan between 2005 and 2007 when there were about 200 students there. By then, some of the school's controversial tactics had changed, but not all.
Nilssen, a New York film editor, spent three years making "The Last Stop." He  dedicated it to "all the kids who took the ride down No. 5 Road," the Poland dirt road where Elan was headquartered.
After the showing Friday afternoon, seven former Elan students took to the stage to talk about their experiences and answer questions. Two cried as they spoke.
"I can't believe this stuff happened to people," said former student Matt Hoffman, choking back tears. "This place was not therapeutic. This place was not a school. This place was certainly not a place you ever wanted to be sent to. There were people who wanted to be sent to prison rather than stay in that place."
Some audience members said they knew of Elan only because, in later years, its track team competed against school teams in the area. Others said they knew of Elan's history because of Sun Journal stories about a 15-year-old Elan student who died after being forced to box other students. Many hadn't known much about the school at all.
"This is a very powerful presentation. In order to honor these students and the many that were at Elan, how are you going to roll it out to every state so they all see it?" one woman asked Nilssen. 
Nilssen said he hopes to show "The Last Stop" at other film festivals around the country and, ultimately, distribute it nationwide.
In the meantime, its second showing will be 8 p.m. Saturday at Clark's Pond Cinemagic in South Portland. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online at
After two hours of anxious watching Friday, Nilssen was happy with the film's debut.
"I think it came out well," he said.
[email protected]
Filmmaker Rob Little, who has a film being shown at the Emerge Film Festival, works on preparing another filmmakers' project for screening at the Franco Center in Lewiston on Friday afternoon. He is the technical director for the festival.
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- Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal
Jen Rioux, of Auburn, right, watches the drama unfold during the screening of "The Last Stop" at the Franco Center in Lewiston on Friday afternoon.
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- Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal
People watch "The Last Stop," a movie about the Elan School in Poland at the Emerge Film Festival in the lower level of the Franco Center in Lewiston on Friday afternoon.
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- Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal
Moviegoers watch a film entitled "Johnny Physical Lives" during Friday's screening at the Franco Center in Lewiston.
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- Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal
Emerge Film Festival
The biggest day of the 2017 Emerge Film Festival is Saturday, with 15 movies and "short blocks" spread over two L-A venues, a noon reception and an evening awards show and reception.
Saturday's highlights include:
10 a.m.: "Women in Horror Film," shorts and panel discussion, at Community Little Theatre, Auburn.
Noon: "Tatara Samurai" (Japan), CLT.
12:15 p.m.: Reception at Rinck Advertising, Lewiston.
3:30 p.m.: "I Know a Man - Ashley Bryan" with Q&A, Franco Center, Lewiston.
4 p.m.: "Island Zero" by Maine's own Tess Gerritsen, with Q&A, CLT.
7 p.m.: "Peace, Love & Zoo" with Q&A, Franco Center.
9 p.m.: EFFy Awards and reception, Franco Center.
For a complete schedule, descriptions of all the movies being shown, tickets and more, go to

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