Respect – the idfa has sent out this press release:
In honour of his 80th birthday, this year’s IDFA will be devoting special attention to the work of Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman has directed and produced dozens of documentaries, which often focussed on social relations within American institutions. He is regarded as one of the major exponents of Direct Cinema. Alongside a retrospective programme compiled by himself, screening of his latest film and a masterclass, the festival will also be looking at Wiseman’s work as a theatre director.
Wiseman (USA, 1930) made his debut as a documentary maker in 1967 with Titicut Follies, about a psychiatric clinic for convicted criminals. The film paints a shocking picture of the humiliating way the detainees were treated, which led to Wiseman being sued many times by the authorities. Many of his later films, including High School, Hospital and Near Death, are also studies of social relations in a variety of – usually American – institutions.
Although he himself would disagree, Wiseman’s work is often included in the category Direct Cinema, the documentary movement, which
strove for the representation of objective reality. In the early 1960s, the introduction of portable cameras and sound recording equipment made it possible for filmmakers to follow their subjects up close, like a ‘fly on the wall’. Wiseman, however, never asserted that his observational style was an attempt to film an objective reality, as he believes film to be by definition a personal and subjective medium.
Wiseman has been a faithful IDFA attendee from the very beginning of the festival. He chaired the first jury in 1988, thereby lending tremendous support to a then small festival. 2004 saw the big IDFA Direct Cinema debate, attended by the movement’s foremost representatives: Robert Drew, Albert and David Maysles, Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman.
To mark his 80th birthday in January 2010, at IDFA’s request Wiseman has selected nine of his old films to be screened at this year’s festival. In addition, Wiseman will give a masterclass, in which he will discuss his work and working method.
The Frederick Wiseman Retrospective will include Titicut Follies (1967), High School (1968), Hospital (1969), Basic Training (1971), Welfare (1975), Model (1980), Missile (1987), Near Death (1989), Belfast, Maine (1999). His latest film, La Danse – le Ballet de l’Opera de Paris (2009), about the famous ballet company in Paris, also screens in the Reflecting Images: Masters programme.
Alongside making documentaries, Wiseman has also directed a number of plays. In late 2005, for example, he directed Happy Days by Samuel Beckett for the Comédie Française in Paris. Together with French actress Catherine Samie, who played the lead, Wiseman will elucidate on his version of this theatre classic at IDFA 2009 by means of live performance, lectures and fragments of recordings of the play.