Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Five Films by Frederick Wiseman

Five Films by Frederick Wiseman: Titicut Follies, High School, Welfare, High School II, Public Housing

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 444
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Five Films by Frederick Wiseman
    Book Description:

    Frederick Wiseman is among America's foremost documentary filmmakers. The recipient of many awards, including three Emmys, Wiseman has made more than thirty feature-length documentaries during a career that has spanned five decades. Together, these films provide a fascinating chronicle of American social and institutional life. This book makes available for the first time transcriptions of five of Wiseman's most important films-Titicut Follies, High School, Welfare, High School II, Public Housing-providing all of the dialogue as well as annotations about other aspects of the soundtracks such as music and ambient noise, and notes about editing and camera movement. These scene-by-scene transcripts enable readers to scrutinize the films' complex structural patterns, recurring motifs, editing regimes, and the unscripted dialogue that makes Wiseman's cinema a rich repository of American speech. Editor Barry Keith Grant's critical introduction discusses the importance of sound in Wiseman's documentaries. Liberally illustrated with images from the films, these meticulous transcriptions are accompanied by a bibliography and filmography.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93870-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Frederick Wiseman

    For me, the making of a documentary film is in some ways the reverse of making a fiction film. With fiction, the idea for the film is transformed into a script by the imagination and work of the writer and/or director, which obviously precedes the shooting of the film. In my documentaries the reverse is true: The film is finished when, after editing, I have found its ″script.″ If a film of mine works, it does so because the verbal and pictorial elements have been fused into a dramatic structure. This is the result of the compression, condensation, reduction, and...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    This book, containing transcripts of five documentary films by Frederick Wiseman, represents, I believe, something of a first in the study of nonfiction film. These transcripts are not screenplays or shooting scripts, of course, since the films were shot in the observational manner, recording unrehearsed and unscripted events as they happened. But they do contain all the dialogue and description of other aspects of the soundtrack, along with notations about camera work and editing. The underlying assumption of this book is that, despite their unscripted origins, Wiseman′s documentaries are of sufficient interest both as information (their ″documentary value,″ as John...

  7. Titicut Follies (1967)
    (pp. 15-50)

    Titicut Follieswas filmed over four weeks in April and May 1966, at the Bridgewater State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Massachusetts, which is run by the state′s Department of Corrections. Wiseman′s first film provides a disturbing look at the treatment the state gives the criminally insane, and it became the subject of a complex legal battle that lasted over twenty years. After the film′s screening at the New York Film Festival in the fall of 1967, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts ordered that it be banned and the negative destroyed. In 1969, the Superior Court allowed the film...

  8. High School (1968)
    (pp. 51-88)

    High Schoolwas shot during five weeks in March and April 1968 in Northeast High School in Philadelphia and released later the same year. Northeast, a relatively good school in the public school system, is shown in the film to have many facilities and extracurricular activities for students, including discussion groups, sports teams, band and choir, and even sophisticated equipment for simulated space flights. The film also shows various classes, including language lessons, typing, history, home economics, physical and sex education, as well as teachers meeting with students regarding discipline and guidance counseling. Despite the school′s middle-class affluence, the film...

  9. Welfare (1975)
    (pp. 89-201)

    Welfarewas filmed at New York City′s obviously overburdened Waverly Welfare Center in lower Manhattan. Shot over a four-week period in February and March of 1973 and released in 1975, the ironically titledWelfarepresents a series of encounters between welfare workers and applicants and clients. The film views the welfare system as an overloaded bureaucratic nightmare in which genuine need is sometimes indistinguishable from freeloading. This was Wiseman′s lengthiest film to date, and its running time of 167 minutes is itself an expression of the Kafkaesque bureaucracy through which welfare applicants must navigate. Significantly, after we enter the Center...

  10. High School II (1994)
    (pp. 202-325)

    High School IIwas filmed in New York for eight weeks, during April and May 1992, at the Central Park East High School on Manhattan′s upper East Side, and released in 1994. Over twenty years afterHigh School, Wiseman returns to the topic of public education and draws many fascinating parallels between the world of high school then and now. Where the earlier film looked at a predominantly white school, the student body of Central Park East is racially more diverse. Classes and individual lessons in literature, writing, science, history, and sex education are shown, as well as teachers′ staff...

  11. Public Housing (1997)
    (pp. 326-414)

    Public Housing, which was shot at the Ida B. Wells Housing Development in Chicago for five weeks during May and June 1996, was released the following year. The development was first built by the Chicago Housing Authority in 1941 on the city′s south side and named for the African-American activist and cofounder of the NAACP who lived there. For many years the Wells Housing Project was one of the country′s poorest innercity neighborhoods, and the film documents the area before the subsequent process of gentrification began.Public Housingimmerses us in the life of this neighborhood, showing a series of...

  12. Filmography
    (pp. 415-422)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 423-432)