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Frederick Wiseman in Residence

November 4, 2014

In a Rankin Scholar residency featuring film screenings, discussions, class visits and master classes, three-time Emmy award-winning documentarian Frederick Wiseman will engage with the Drexel community and the wider public on Monday, November 10 and Tuesday, November 11.

Over the course of almost 50 years of filmmaking, Mr. Wiseman has produced an extraordinary body of 39 full-length documentaries. His acclaimed films uncover the nuanced complexities of American society, both within the microcosms of the institutions they investigate and within the framework of larger inquiries into the human experience. During his long career Mr. Wiseman has pioneered a documentary form that draws the audience into the film’s setting by eschewing any sort of narration. Instead, he tells the story by arranging it thematically rather than chronologically and linking scenes in ways that force the viewer to make judgments for themselves about what they see happening. Recently, The New York Times Magazine featured Mr. Wiseman’s filmmaking methods in “Old Masters,” which portraits reigning artists in their 80s and 90s.


On Monday, November 10 at 7:00pm a screening of HIGH SCHOOL will take place in the URBN Annex Screening Room (3401 Filbert Street). Filmed in 1968 at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, the documentary presents a series of formal and informal encounters between teachers, students, parents, and administrators through which the values of the school emerge. On Tuesday, November 11 at 10:00am in honor of Veteran’s Day, there will be a screening of BASIC TRAINING, a 1971 film by Wiseman that follows a company of draftees and enlisted men through their nine weeks of basic training. Later that day, a 7:00pm screening of TITCUT FOLLIES will take place. Called “a brilliant work of art” by The New Republic, the 1967 documentary starkly portrays life behind the walls of the State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, MA. Powerfully capturing the human condition, Mr. Wiseman documents the various ways the inmates are treated by guards, social workers and psychiatrists.


All screenings are in the URBN Annex Screening Room (3401 Filbert Street), are free and open to the public, and will be followed by a Q&A with Mr. Wiseman.

In 1971 Mr. Wiseman founded the independent documentary film distribution company, Zipporah Films, which is the exclusive distributor of his films. They include AT BERKELEY (2013), CRAZY HORSE (2011), LA DANSE (2009), HIGHSCHOOL II (1994), BALLET (1993), WELFARE (1975) and many more. He is the distinguished recipient of many awards, including The George Polk Career Award, the Career Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, IDFA Living Legend Award, the American Society of Cinematographers Distinguished Achievement Award and The Peabody Award for Significant and Meritorious Achievement. He has been a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, amongst many, and has served on numerous advisory boards including for the New York Documentary Festival (1997 – present), the International Documentary Association (1986 – present), and the American Repertory Theatre, Harvard University (1986-present).

His latest film is NATIONAL GALLERY, which looks at the interaction between patrons and the art at the National Gallery in London. The Philadelphia Film Society will host a special sneak preview on November 11 at the Roxy Theater in Philadelphia. The New York Times called it “One of the best movies in the [2014 New York Film] festival…”


The Rankin Scholar-in-Residence award, established in 2006 to honor former Westphal Dean Marjorie Rankin, brings to campus noted individuals who excel fields related to media arts and design.

For more information about Mr. Wiseman’s residency please contact Lisa Visco at