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High School (1968)

Not Rated | | Documentary | May 1969 (USA)
Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman takes us inside Northeast High School as a fly on the wall to observe the teachers and how they interact with the students.


Frederick Wiseman
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Producer and director Frederick Wiseman takes his camera into a high school in 1968 and records events as they occur. Told without narration, the film essentially listens in on students, teachers and parents as they deal with issues of everyday life. Students are clearly meant to do as they are told without question - many of the teachers are autocratic in this respect - and the developing clash of cultures is evident in almost every scene. The role these young women are expected to play after high school is particularly archaic by today's standards. Written by garykmcd

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Not Rated


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Release Date:

May 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Student Affairs See more »

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Production Co:

Osti Productions See more »
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Did You Know?


This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1991. See more »


Male Authority Figure: It's nice to be individualistic, but there are certain places to be individualistic.
Female Student: I didn't mean to be individualistic.
Male Authority Figure: No, I'm not criticizing!
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Referenced in Rushmore (1998) See more »


Simon Says
Written by Elliot Chiprut
Performed by 1910 Fruitgum Company
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User Reviews

Perhaps Wiseman's most accessible feature, also a masterful perspective on high school in the sixties
10 August 2008 | by ametaphysicalsharkSee all my reviews

Frederick Wiseman is, of course, one of the best documentary film-makers, a wonderfully evocative but not manipulative cinema verite director who has consistently been making quality documentaries for several decades. "High School" is now available from Zipporah films, albeit for a higher price than many films ($35), and it is arguably his most accessible feature.

Wiseman has directed several films that run longer than three hours, mind-numbingly intense documentaries which fiercely tear into their subject matter and are nearly completely thematically ambiguous, but "High School" is more a straightforward documentary, reminiscent in places of the sort of film the Maysles Brothers made, and of "Titicut Follies", perhaps the only other Wiseman film with a definitive approach to the subject matter. The film doesn't feature the sort of objectivity some of Wiseman's other films do, and even the sequel to this feature, "High School II", which looked at a 90's high school, is far more ambiguous and much longer than this lean 75-minute feature, but around as good.

Still, the film is not marred by simplistic messages and a preachy attitude. Wiseman's films, as they normally do, allow a remarkably candid, voyeuristic experience for the audience, letting us see some of the social attitudes of the era as well as capturing the timeless feel of the high school experience. In what is perhaps the film's greatest scene a teacher formally recites "The Dangling Conversation" by Simon and Garfunkel, then plays the song for the class. You see small mannerisms change, the teacher suddenly has a hopeful look in her eyes rather than one of a tired educator, and Wiseman brilliantly captures the class's reaction without the scene ever feeling contrived or forced. It's just the sort of scene that Wiseman does perfectly, asking the audience to interpret the images for themselves, never overstepping his boundaries and preaching to the audience.

"High School" is almost certainly Wiseman's most accessible film. At 75 minutes in length it goes by quite fast and although it isn't necessarily designed as entertainment it is more or less easy to watch except for those who had traumatic high school experiences. "High School II" is a more complex and ambitious film (and, of course, seen by far fewer people), but "High School" might have the edge in terms of just how effective and lean it is. It's a perfectly-structured documentary with a stunning final scene, and may be one of my favorite films.


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