Documentarian Frederick Wiseman has been noted for his ability to capture the nuances of life in American institutions such as prisons, hospitals, welfare offices, and high schools. He started out in 1963 by producing a fictional feature film, The Cool World, an examination of the lives of Harlem teenagers. In the beginning, Wiseman was a staunch social reformist, and his films were calls for change. Titicut Follies, his first documentary, is an exposé of life in a prison for the criminally insane in Bridgewater, MA. It was controversial and left Wiseman with the reputation of being a muckraker. His four subsequent documentaries were all exposés of other tax-supported institutions designed to show the ineffectiveness of the bureaucracy that not only threatens to destroy them, but also dehumanizes the people they were meant to serve. Wiseman toned down his message and began focusing more on American culture to point out the symbolism of daily activities in his film Primate (1974). In… read more
With such a wide span to its subject, there isn’t complete cohesion of all the aspects even with its length, but all of them in this environment interconnect into each other, showing a community that nobly fights against poverty, drugs and other issues on the housing development, revealing a rich living environment to the viewer as well as revealing how much Wiseman is a visual painter as well as a documentalist.
One of the failures of U.S. bureaucratic governmental programs is that they remove the individuality of people targeted for aid, creating a system of spread sheets, departmental mandates, quotas and pie charts systematically turning flesh and blood into data. Frederick Wiseman reverses the process, focusing on complex human lives to expose a more exact tragedy: institutionalized degradation as racism's endgame.