On the one hand, you have the Panamians, but Frederick Wiseman shows them as the Americans see them: from a distance. They are poor and of no particular interest to them even if Panama is ... See full summary »
I saw this film along with a visit by FW to my university in the late 1970s - and haven't seen it since. I saw "Aspen" in the 90's and liked it, well enough but less. It's hard to find FW's work on DVD. I looked him up today because New Yorker's David Denby has reviewed a new film about the Idaho State Legislature which IMDb doesn't seem to be aware of.
I think Mr. Yates 2002 comment about Juvenile Court as a test of "ethics" is well-taken, but don't think the point is for omniscient viewers to draw moral judgments about participants in the documentary - as if they could do better. The most compelling thing about FW's films is the ability to bring out a genuine, even decent, humanity in the people working within institutional constraints. The main pattern of interaction in the film is between apparently well-meaning authorities in their jobs, who see and apparently sincerely try to help the juvenile offenders for the 15 minutes or hour-or-two the job mandates - but then clinically or even surgically sever the relationship. The main realization is that such a setup can't possibly work. My impression was that instead of a series of discontinuous ceremonial office visits, each of the kids needed to be taken home and raised by one of the decent people who interviewed them.
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