Cleveland International Film Festival } March 22 – April 1, 2023 } Playhouse Square

FREDERICK WISEMAN LIVE! (w/ guest Frederick Wiseman, Documentarist)

Year: 2001

Frederick Wiseman is the most influential cinema-verite filmmaker making documentaries today. He lives with his wife and their two sons in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Before becoming a filmmaker, Wiseman was a practicing and teaching lawyer in Boston. In 1958, the then 28-year-old Boston University law professor would take his classes in legal medicine and criminal law on field trips to the Massachusetts state prison for the criminally insane in Bridgewater. "I wanted them to see the inside of the kind of institution they might someday be committing someone to." His first film "Titicut Follies" (1967) is about this institution. "It's the kind of place that doesn't get out of your mind."

Including "Titicut Follies," Wiseman has made 12 feature-length documentaries concerned with Americans and their institutions: a large urban high school ("High School," 1968); a city police department ("Law and Order," 1969); a public hospital in New York ("Hospital," 1970); an army training camp ("Basic Training," 1971); a monastery in Michigan ("Essene," 1972); a juvenile court in Tennessee ("Juvenile Court," 1973); a scientific research center ("Primate," 1974); a welfare center in New York City ("Welfare," 1975); a Colorado meatpacking plant ("Meat," 1976); the American colony in the Panama Canal Zone ("Canal Zone," 1977); and the American-run surveillance station in the Sinai ("Sinai Field Mission," 1978).

Frederick Wiseman is the complete filmmaker: He produces, directs and edits each film. His films are black-and-white and contain not a word of narration "so there's no separation between the audience and the events in the film." This forces the viewer to actively participate. How to relate to the events taking place on the screen is left for each person in the audience to decide for himself.

Wiseman sees each of his films as a "voyage of discovery." He probes. His films inform. Watching a Wiseman film may prove not to be an easy experience. In fact, most times it's not. Although each Wiseman "voyage" may be difficult, it is one well worth taking.

Wiseman films are uncontrolled investigations. He looks at life close up. He uses great sensitivity as he tries to recreate the actual experience. He tries not to editorialize. About his own films, Wiseman says, "Even though the audience is aware of my point of view, I try to present the material so that viewers can develop their own. . . I try to make the final film reflect the complexity of the subject. Any effort to simplify this demeans the subject and patronizes the audience."

"No contemporary maker of films, whether for theatrical release or for television, engages my emotions so fully or so consistently as Frederick Wiseman does. . . it provides an extraordinary experience. . . The chief characteristic of all Wiseman's films - and the source of their tremendous emotional impact - is his instinctive sympathy for people who must confront the specific, human effects of vast impersonal social forces." - Richard Schickel, LIFE

"His movies are a constant surprise, diverse in meaning and rich in experience. . . They openly invite spirited debate, as Wiseman's high opinion of the intelligence of the audience is itself a reflection of his own complex view of life." - Stephen Mamber, L.A. Filmex

"The outstanding and inexplicable quality of Wiseman's cinema is his ability to be ever present, to capture with his camera and recorder a half-spoken word or the shadow of a lie, without ever seeming to intrude or to condition the way his subjects behave in the presence of the film crew." - David Robinson, The London Times.

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