Monday, November 29, 2010

Frederick Wiseman

Watching Frederick Wiseman's 1975 film Welfare is like taking a time machine back to the grungy and non-gentrified New York City at the time of the city's financial crisis and close call with bankruptcy. Everyone at the Waverly welfare office is smoking and the computers are from the Mesozaic era (bottom still), but the overworked staff comes across as resolutely willing to listen. Indeed, a 1975 portrait of bureaucratic dehumanization now seems far less menacing. Wiseman's close-in, eavesdropping documentation of client-staff interactions gives us a wide range of stories and personalities. We hear from the woeful, the mentally ill, and the unlucky, with a few con artists thrown in the mix.
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Documentary Starts Here by Nancy Kalow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.