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Wiseman

© Gretje Ferguson

Speaking Engagements
Mr. Wiseman is available for lectures and workshops. Requests for guest appearances should be made well in advance. Please contact Karen Konicek at info@zipporah.com.

Read an interview with Frederick Wiseman in T Magazine, October 26, 2014.



Frederick Wiseman, Chronicler of the Western World

Philippe Pilard (originally published in La Sept/Arte)

Fred Wiseman is probably one of today’s greatest living documentary filmmakers. For close to thirty years, thanks to the Public Broadcast Service (PBS), he has created an exceptional body of work consisting of thirty full length films devoted primarily to exploring American institutions. Over time these films have become a record of the western world, since now more than ever as we approach the century’s close, nothing North American is really foreign to us.

The institutions that Wiseman examined early in his career – a hospital, a high school, army basic training, a welfare center, a police precinct – have “problems” that the filmmaker uncovers. His approach reveals the profound acknowledged and unacknowledged conformity and inequality of American society. Wiseman’s films are also a reflection on democracy. What do his films portray, the “American dream” or the “air conditioned nightmare”? Both, but also a questioning of the world and of existence.

Occasionally, his films describe less circumscribed institutions – the world of fashion, a public park, and a ski resort. In addition to examining the social and ethical questions he is not afraid to confront the “big” metaphysical questions particularly in the films about handicapped children and dying patients. The filmmaker is trying to encompass all of human experience in his films.

In the past, Wiseman had already made movies outside the borders of his own country, in the Sinai, in Germany, and in Panama. In each of these films, however, his subject was Americans abroad.

In 1993, in his film BALLET, he followed the American Ballet Theatre rehearsals in New York and performances in Europe. For a long time Wiseman had wanted to make a film in France and in 1995 he tackled that most French of institutions, The Comedie Francaise. Both in BALLET and LA COMÉDIE-FRANÇAISE Wiseman raises questions about the conditions necessary for artistic creation: how to create those conditions which allow a director, an actor, or a dancer to achieve the goal of a perfect even sublime performance; how the specific dialect for the theatre works, the dialect which both places in opposition and transcends the solitude of individual creation and group collaboration.

“Documentaries, like theatre pieces, novels or poems are forms of fiction,” claims Wiseman. Over the years his films have become more a skillful mix of observation, testimony, reflection, an absence of prejudice, and courage, and humor. A complex body of work, as great works of fiction (novels, drama, music, and film) can be, with the same profundity, contradictions, and questions without answers.

Frederick Wiseman’s Curriculum Vitae

B.A. 1951 Williams College
LL.B. 1954 Yale Law School

Doctor of Fine Arts, Bowdoin College, 2005
Doctor of Fine Arts, Princeton University, 1994
Doctor of Humane Letters, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 1994
Doctor of Fine Arts, Lake Forest College, 1991
Doctor of Humane Letters, Williams College, 1976
Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Cincinnati, 1973

Golden Lion Honorary Award, 67th Venice Film Festival, 2014
Career Achievement Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, 2013
Dartmouth Film Award, 2009
IDFA Living Legend Award, 2009
Lifetime Achievement Award, The Chicago International Documentary Festival, 2007
George Polk Career Award, 2006
American Society of Cinematographers Distinguished Achievement Award, 2006
Dan David Prize Laureate, 2003
Yale Law Association Award of Merit, 2002
Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2001-present
Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 2000
The Rosenberger Medal, University of Chicago, 1999
Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1991-present
The Peabody Award for Significant and Meritorious Achievement, 1990
Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1987
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow, 1982-1987
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow, 1980-1981

Independent Filmmaker, 1967-present
Zipporah Films, Inc., General Manager, 1971-present
Treasurer, Organization for Social & Technical Innovation, 1966-1970
Research Associate, Brandeis University, Department of Sociology, 1962-1964
Russell Sage Foundation Fellowship, Harvard University, 1961-1962
Lecturer-in-Law, Boston University Law School, 1959-1961
Member, Massachusetts Bar, 1955
Private Practice, Paris, France, 1956-1957
United States Army, 1955-1956

Artistic Council and Board of Directors, Theater for a New Audience, 1998-present
Honorary Committee, The Boston Jewish Film Festival, 1994-present
Honorary Member, Les Amis du Cinéma du Réel Association, 1987-present

Theater
“La Belle d’Amherst” (The Belle of Amherst) by William Luce.
“Oh Les Beaux Jours” (Happy Days) by Samuel Beckett.
La Comedie Francaise, Paris. Director, November – January 2006; Director & Actor, Jan-March 2007.
“The Last Letter” an adaptation from the novel Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
Theatre for a New Audience, New York. Director, December 2003
“The Last Letter” an adaptation from the novel Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.
North American Tour with La Comedie Francaise production (Ottawa/Toronto, Canada; Cambridge/Springfield, MA; New York, NY; Chicago, IL)

Director, May-June 2001
“The Last Letter” an adaptation from the novel Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.
La Comedie Francaise, Paris. Director, March-April 2000, September-November, 2000
“Welfare: The Opera,” story by Frederick Wiseman and David Slavitt, libretto by David
Slavitt, music by Lenny Pickett.
St. Anne’s Center for Restoration and the Arts, New York. Director, May 1997
“Welfare: The Opera,” story by Frederick Wiseman and David Slavitt, libretto by David Slavitt, music by Lenny Pickett.
American Music Theater Festival, Philadelphia. Director, June 1992
“Hate” by Joshua Goldstein. American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge. Director,
January 1991
“The Last Letter” an adaptation from the novel Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.
American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge. Director, May 1988
“Tonight We Improvise” by Luigi Pirandello.
American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge. Director of video sequences and actor in role of documentary filmmaker, November 1986-February 1987

Publications
“Reality Fictions” The Threepenny Review, Summer 2004
“Near Death” The Threepenny Review, Winter 2004
“Walker Evans VI” The Threepenny Review, Winter 2002
“Jill Freedman IV” The Threepenny Review, Winter 1999
“Dan Weiner III,” The Threepenny Review, Winter 1998
“Une approche du monologue” Comédie-Française Les Cahiers, No 23, 1997
“A Nonscholar’s Approach to Monologue,” The Threepenny Review, Winter 1997
“Dorothea Lange V,” The Threepenny Review, Winter 1995
“Implementation,” section of Report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, co-author. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1968
“Psychiatry and Law: Use and Abuse of Psychiatry in a Murder Case,” American Journal of Psychiatry, October 1961

 
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