While society shut down the asylums, it never truly found a place for the mentally ill. But when a young psychologist at a failing institution in Spain took a handful of patients and started a business, it grew into a multi-million dollar yoghurt brand that now employs hundreds of people with mental health problems.
35 years its founder, Cristobal Colon, needs to find a replacement to ensure the business has a future without him. Yoghurt Utopia follows a tumultuous year in the life of the La Fageda Cooperative and its workers, both inside and outside the factory.
We are delighted that directors David Baksh and Anna Thomson will join us for a live discussion on Zoom at 8.30pm on Thursday 11 June, with BSL interpretation available.
In the beautiful Catalonian forest of La Fageda d'en Jordà, a co-operative makes 1.4 million yoghurts every week. Named after the surrounding forest, La Fageda is the brainchild of psychologist Cristóbal Colón. His frustration with the Spanish asylums of his era led him to set up La Fageda as a social enterprise, employing the very people he felt were let down by the system. As Cristóbal begins to accept that he must retire from his life's work, against encroaching profit margins and technological advances, the future of La Fageda and its founding principles are threatened.
However, Yoghurt Utopia is not simply a portrait of La Fageda's founder, nor does it shy away from the day-to-day stress of the production line and care provision catered to each individual. Following the entire team through this tumultuous time, David Baksh and Anna Thomson hone in on the impact of the project through employees Luis, Joan, Mireia, Àngel, and Rosario, and their families. Àngel is able to save up to go on holiday to Lourdes, Joan holds an exhibition of his paintings, and Mireia tries to find true love in Girona's gay scene. But Luis, already very sensitive to change, is reticent on becoming a full-time resident at La Fageda, to the concern of his ageing mother and sister who lives far away. Baksh and Thomson show how each of their stories is crucial to the overall understanding of the project - and their community.
"Work is important for everyone," says Colón. The overwhelmingly positive experience of the employees' active engagement in La Fageda is testament to that. But, as Colón also points out, work isn't everything. "We are not about making yoghurt. We are about making everyone a little happier while making yoghurt."