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The main guest of this year’s Jihlava IDFF is a living legend of American documentary Frederick Wiseman. This still active film maker who is famous for his criticism of American governmental institutions will introduce a profile of his forty years long career. As a part of Translucent Beings category, he will present selected films, starting with his documentary Law and Order from 1969 and ending with his new film State Legislature that premiered only two years ago.


IDFF Jihlava
October 24 - 29 2008
Jihlava, Czeh Republic
Photo: High School




„I try to immerse myself, to the extent I can, in the life of a place of which I have little prior knowledge, and I don’t go in with a thesis I try to prove or disprove. The shooting of the film is the research. My response to that experience is what the final film is about.“Frederick Wiseman


 Frederick Wiseman, is a living legend of American documentary and one of the greatest documentary filmmakers in the history. With him, the autumn Jihlava will welcome a big critic of American government and other institutions and a glossarist of the democratic establishment who is in the same time an observer of a man trapped in the net of institutions.  


Frederick Wiseman was born on January, 1 1930 in Boston, Massachusetts. Soon, his interest and love of films won over a career in law. He finished his first full length film in 1967. Titicut Follies is an unprejudiced “portray” of at the State Prison for Criminally Insane that caused panic by the government officials who banned it from circulation except of screenings for experts. The film was allowed for open distribution by a Supreme Court rule in 1991. Nevertheless, Wiseman continued covering similarly provocative topics in his rough films High School (1968), Law and Order (1969) or Hospital (1970). Its uncompromising style makes it a part of the golden documentary cinema fund.



Wiseman is defined by his targeted non-intervening approach to depicted situations with no questions asked and no traditional ”documentary situation” provoked. The power of his movies is in a striking naturalness and pragmatism with which his camera is able to immerse in the surrounding events. Oftentimes, he does that in places and parts of institutions which a normal citizen does not have a chance to see. And even if a normal person succeeds and gets to peak in, he or she often end up as a victim. 
His first films introduced him as an anti-illusion critic who discloses the perversion of social establishment on the example of different branches of the administration and as a filmmaker who uses documentary as a weapon against the injustice of institutions and politics. But Wiseman points out: „The Correctional Institution at Bridgewater was a horrible place in Titicut Follies, but even within that horror, there were people who worked hard and well. And since Law and Order, to the extent that I’m trying to do anything, it’s to show as wide a range of human behavior as possible, its enormous complexity and diversity.“ Behind his analytically precise research of the system, there is a concert about an individual human being.



 Translucent Being Frederick Wiseman presents following films of his wide filmography:
Law and Order (1969) – this third Wiseman’s full length film covers the daily lives of ordinary police officers  - men in uniforms, investigators as well as offenders and people who are asking police for help. The film is not flattering either of the sides; it follows the daily routine step by step and leaves it up to the viewer to make his or her own evaluation of the results.


Essene (1972) – is a profile of the everyday life in a Benedictine monastery. It is a story of a struggle between personal needs and desires with the general demands of a monastery institution. It is a study of a fascinating institutional process in which individual personal aspirations are directly connected to the aspirations of the whole community.


Welfare (1975) – a study of the American welfare system and a broad spectrum of problems the welfare deals with (unemployment, child abuse, divorces, health and mental problems).

Model (1980) – an insight in the modern modeling industry. The world of today’s fashion is seen from the individual perspective of models, designers, photographers as well as managers and also from the institutional perspective of the system.
Ballet (1995) – is a portray of the famed ballet ensemble American Ballet Theatre and its employees, reaching from production assistants to respected solo-dancers. The camera follows their preparations in their New York studio as well as during their tour to Copenhagen and Athens.

State Legislature (2006) – one of the biggest events on TV screens in 2007. The film State Legislature follows with an exact and analytical approach the legislative board’s meeting in the US state of Idaho. It shows the vibrant personalities of congressmen, lobbyists and their assistants, searching for the limits of the democratic system. 


Including his complete “Army Trilogy”:
Basic Training (1971)
– how does the transformation of ordinary citizens into professional soldiers look like? The ideological industry of muddy drilling grounds and lecture halls in the nine month of the basic cadet training.
Manoeuvre (1979) – a routine army drill of NATO in Western Europe from the perspective of US tank infantry is a search for the sense, function and affectivity of the conventional way of fighting in the nuclear era.
Sinai Field Mission (1978) – description of the day to day live at the US army base on Sinai peninsula which was installed as a reaction to the Yom Kippur war of 1973 to simplify the peace process between Egypt and Israel.