Wiseman, Frederick

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 example: High School (1969), Hospital (1970), Juvenile Court (1973), Welfare (1975), State Legislature (2007), and At Berkeley (2013). Other films— Model (1980), The Store (1983), Central Park (1990), Ballet (1995), La Danse (2009), Boxing Gym (2010), Crazy Horse (2011), and In Jackson Heights (2015)—explore other sorts of people and places, many of them centering on the beauty and grace of the human body. In three mid-1980s works Wiseman examined the world of the physically challenged. He is usually the producer-director and sometimes a writer, editor, or actor for his many films, which are mostly black and white and eschew editorialization or other narration and musical soundtracks. 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.

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