Frederick Wiseman

Wiseman, Frederick, 1930–, American documentary filmmaker, b. Boston, grad. Williams College (B.A., 1951), Yale Law School (LL.B., 1954). Wiseman practiced and taught law for about a decade, but his real interests lay elsewhere. His first film, Titicut Follies (1967), is a harrowingly realistic look at a Massachusetts state hospital for the criminally insane. With this work, he became known as a cinéma vérité master possessed of keen socio-psychological insights. Many of his subsequent films reveal a pervasive dehumanization as they examine various American institutions through the portrayal of a single typical example: High School (1969), Hospital (1970), Juvenile Court (1973), Welfare (1975), State Legislature (2007), and At Berkeley (2013). Some later films, such as Model (1980), The Store (1983), Central Park (1990), Ballet (1995), La Danse (2009), Boxing Gym (2010), and Crazy Horse (2011), explore other sorts of people and places, many of them centering on the beauty and grace of the human body. He also examined the world of the physically challenged in three mid-1980s works. Wiseman is usually the producer-director and sometimes a writer, editor, or actor for his many films, which are mostly black and white, with neither narration nor musical soundtracks, and eschew editorialization. He has also occasionally made fictional works: The Stunt Man (1980), Seraphita's Diary (1982), and The Last Letter (2002).

See studies by T. R. Atkins, ed. (1976), T. W. Benson and C. Anderson (1989, rev. ed. 2002), B. K. Grant (1992), and A. Delbanco et al. (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Film and Television: Biographies