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Documentary Veteran Frederick Wiseman: ‘I Don’t Like the Description ‘Observational Cinema’

22 November 2016 1:07 AM, PST | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

Amsterdam – For a man of 86, Frederick Wiseman has enough energy and stamina to shame a man half his age. Attending Idfa with a screening of his 1970 documentary “Hospital,”  a study of New York’s Metropolitan Hospital Center, Wiseman brought along extra clips from two near-contemporary movies – 1971’s “Basic Training” and 1975’s “Welfare” to explain his methods, but what emerged from the three-hour masterclass was not simply how insightful those films were in their day but how relevant to modern America they still are.

Surprisingly, although his style is famously non-interventionist, in contrast to the more populist  style of America’s Michael Moore and the U.K.’s Louis Theroux, Wiseman took issue with the conception of his films as ‘observational’. “I don’t like the description ‘observational cinema’,” he said, “because for me that suggests that you just set up the camera in the corner of the room and let it run forever. »

- Damon Wise

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