It Takes Time: Ten Films by Frederick Wiseman

The human experience is a fascinating subject in documentary filmmaking. It Takes Time: Ten Films by Frederick Wiseman presents a lifetime of work by the outstanding American documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. Wiseman has been capturing unscripted moments of ordinary life in diverse communities across America from the 1960s until now. “I’m making movies about common human experiences, which differ from place to place because traditions, customs and habits differ . . . I attempt to create a dramatic structure drawn from ordinary experience and un-staged, everyday events,” he says.

Frederick Wiseman. Photograph: Erik Madigan Heck, United States of America. Courtesy Sydney Film Festival, ACMI, Melbourne and National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Australian Capital Territory

In the Melbourne premiere of City Hall, 2020, we see democracy in action in Wiseman’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts; go inside a prison for the criminally insane in Titicut Follies, 1967, and America’s social security system in Welfare, 1975. Experience joys and tensions from music to riots in Central Park, 1989; High School II, 1994, looks at the American education system in Spanish Harlem; Belfast, Maine, 1999, brings a raw portrait of a small town to screen; Domestic Violence, 2001, records the extraordinary transformations a Florida-based shelter is enabling; go behind the scenes in La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet, 2009; In Jackson Heights, 2015, celebrates one of New York’s most ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhoods; and Ex Libris: New York Public Library, 2017, encounters the quiet space of book lovers, archivists, educators, and administrators.

Frederick Wiseman, Central Park

Sydney Film Festival (SFF), 11 June to 31 July, Melbourne’s ACMI until 25 September, and Canberra’s National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), 12 June to 23 October 2022.

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