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Frederick Wiseman: Chronicler of America

October 21, 2014

Frederick Wiseman, a true master and great innovator of the documentary form who has investigated America’s institutions and life with incomparable insight and skill, will serve as a Rankin Scholar in Residence at Drexel this November. In addition to public screenings of two of Wiseman’s films, the three-time Emmy award-winning documentarian will engage with the Film & Video Program and the wider Drexel community through class visits and master classes during his two-day residency.

Over the course of a three decade film career Mr. Wiseman has produced an extraordinary body of more than thirty full-length documentaries. His acclaimed films provocatively, and without prejudice, 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.

Among them is the 1968 film HIGH SCHOOL, which will screen on Monday, November 10 at 7:00pm in the URBN Annex Screening Room (3401 Filbert Street). Filmed at a large urban high school in Philadelphia, the film documents how the school system exists not only to pass on ‘facts’ but also transmits social values from one generation to another. HIGH SCHOOL presents a series of formal and informal encounters between teachers, students, parents, and administrators through which the ideology and values of the school emerge.

On Tuesday, November 11, a 7:00pm screening of TITCUT FOLLIES will take place in the URBN Annex Screening Room. 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, Wiseman documents the various ways the inmates are treated by guards, social workers and psychiatrists.

Both screenings 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).

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