In conversation with Frederick Wiseman

Saturday 15th Feb. 2014 at 14:00, Quartz, Brest, France

Frederick Wiseman is the invited speaker for documentary and Alok Nandi is hosting the conversation, at the Festival Longueur d’Ondes, in Brest.

Frederick Wiseman sera cette année l’invité de la Scam.
Documentariste de renom, il s’est concentré sur les grandes institutions américaines. Récemment, c’est à l’Opéra Garnier qu’il a porté tout son intérêt en réalisant La Danse, le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris et au célèbre cabaret parisien Crazy Horse.
petit théâtre du Quartz, samedi 15 février à 14h
À l’issue de la séance au Quartz, At Berkeley le dernier né des films de Frederick Wiseman sera diffusé en avant-première !
cinéma Les Studios, samedi 15 février à 17h

For perspective, from F. Wiseman’s website –

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.


designer, writer-director