In Waltham, Massachusetts there is a cemetery where 310 unidentified people are buried. Graves are marked only with a letter and a number. “C” stands for Catholic and “P” for Protestant, the number indicating the order in which they were buried. The cemetery, known as MetFern Cemetery, served as a burial site for patients housed within the walls of two nearby mental institutions - The Fernald School for “feeble-minded” children and the Metropolitan State Hospital. Hidden among the trees of Beaver Brook Reservation, MetFern Cemetery is only accessible by hiking trails. 310 lives suspended in anonymity.  

Massachusetts has a sordid history of improperly interning and mistreating its citizens who fall within the definition of “mentally inadequate,” but the history of MetFern Cemetery is largely unknown even to those who live next door. Today, many residents in Waltham are surprised to learn of the cemetery’s existence. The feature-length documentary The Fate of Human Beings uncovers the history behind MetFern Cemetery, telling the stories of the people buried there. Through a mix of archival and present-day material, the film explores the depersonalization of disabled people prevalent throughout American society. Former patients of the two institutions, the funeral home director responsible for improving conditions in the cemetery, and family members of the deceased will form the narrative of the film.

Do you know someone buried in MetFern Cemetery? Are you a former patient or staff member from The Fernald School or Met State Hospital? We want to hear from you.

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Heather Cassano, Producer & Director is a documentary filmmaker living and working in the Greater Boston Area. Her films are reminiscent of the direct cinema movement, adopting a patient, invested approach with her subjects. Heather blends this observational style with deeply personal narratives, striving to tell authentic stories through her personal experiences. In 2018, Heather premiered her first feature-length documentary The Limits of My World to a packed cinema at the Independent Film Festival Boston. The Limits of My World is an autistic coming of age story following Heather’s brother Brian as he transitions from the school system to his first semi-independent living environment. The film screened at numerous festivals across the United States and internationally, winning three Best Documentary awards and a Jury Prize. The Limits of My World will be released to the public in 2019.

Ben Pender-Cudlip, Director of Photography is a documentary cinematographer and director. He recently co-directed the feature documentary Dawnland, which aired on PBS Independent Lens in 2018. He is the director and photographer of over a dozen short documentary films, including the award-winning First Light (2015) and Sanjiban (2012 - Hot Docs, CIFF). Ben is a Points North Fellow and Good Pitch alum. He is also the winner of the Salem Film Festival’s Doc-a-chusetts Pitch with his new film, Tethys, a feature documentary in production about artist Bob Schuler’s 30-year quest to bury his art at the bottom of the sea.

Adrianne Parent, Editor is a graduate of Emerson College, Adrianne has been working professionally in the film/video industry for over 16 years.  She has enjoyed a successful career in both the Boston, MA and Austin, TX markets collaborating with ad agencies, corporations, non-profits, award-winning directors, and independent producers to bring their projects to life. Adrianne is a highly skilled storyteller who excels at combing through countless hours of footage to find the heart and soul of the film.  She is passionate about her craft and is drawn to projects that positively impact society and those that give a voice to the disenfranchised.

Kathryn Ostrofsky, Historian holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania. She taught U.S. history and media history at Angelo State University for six years. Her work on 20th-century American culture has been published in The Journal of Popular Music Studies, Music in Comedy Television (Routledge 2017), Current, Oxford Bibliographies in Media Studies, and CNN. Her manuscript, Sounding It Out: How Sesame Street Crafted American Culture, based on a decade of archival research and original oral interviews, is under contract with the University of California Press. She currently serves on the Scholarly Advisory Committee for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (Library of Congress and WGBH) and is active in efforts to preserve public broadcasting’s paper, oral, and a/v sources.