Frederick Wiseman: The Filmmaker Who Shows Us Ourselves

By A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis

Originally published in the New York Times on April 6, 2017

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Frederick Wiseman has been making documentaries for 50 years. His films vary in subject but return to examination of human beings, in all of their variety and uniqueness. Credit Herve Bruhat/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

Frederick Wiseman has been making documentaries for 50 years. His films vary in subject but return to examination of human beings, in all of their variety and uniqueness. Credit Herve Bruhat/Gamma-Rapho, via Getty Images

“The wonder of ‘In Jackson Heights‘ — Mr. Wiseman’s most Whitmanesque film — is that it grounds a vision of America in the particulars of daily life. It discovers a hero in the person of Daniel Dromm, a New York City councilman who tackles the job of representing his neighborhood with shambling, inexhaustible good cheer. Some of the most moving scenes take place in Mr. Dromm’s office, where members of his staff answer phone calls from constituents who need to talk to someone in government. They don’t always have the right branch — their concerns include constitutional law and United States military policy — but the courtesy and patience with which they are treated provide a timely and permanent lesson in democratic values.”

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