USA / 2018 / English / Color / DCP / 143 min
Director, Editing, Sound: Frederick Wiseman
Photography: John Davey
Sound Editor: Valérie Pico
World Sales: Zipporah Films
After the 2016 Presidential election, Frederick Wiseman chose the farming town of Monrovia, Indiana as his next subject. Turning his careful gaze on the pastoral site of farms, in addition to a freemason’s lodge, a lions club, a high school, a church, and a gun shop, Wiseman paints a picture of the people who are seen as maintaining an old-fashioned lifestyle and holding so-called “traditional American values.” His graceful sketching of their daily life, meetings, and special events reveals the full scope of this town’s social structure. Here is the true face of the ordinary people who are sometimes presented as underpinning American society.
[Director’s Statement] I thought a film about a small farming community in the Midwest would be a good addition to the series I have been doing on contemporary American life. Monrovia, Indiana appealed to me because of its size (1,063 residents), location (I have never shot a film in the rural Midwest) and the shared cultural and religious interests within the community. During the nine weeks of filming the residents of Monrovia were helpful, friendly and welcoming and gave me access to all aspects of daily life. Life in big American cities on the east and west coasts is regularly reported on, and I was interested in learning more about life in small town America and sharing my view.
Since 1967, Frederick Wiseman has directed forty-two documentaries—dramatic, narrative films that seek to portray ordinary human experience in a wide variety of social institutions.
His films include Titicut Follies (1967), High School (1968), Juvenile Court (1973), Welfare (1975), Model (1980, YIDFF ’91), Central Park (1989), Zoo (1993, YIDFF ’93 Mayor’s Prize), La Comédie-Française ou l’amour joué (1996, YIDFF ’97 Special Prize), Belfast, Maine (1999, YIDFF ’99 Mayor’s Prize), Domestic Violence (2001, YIDFF 2001), Domestic Violence 2 (2002, YIDFF 2003), La Danse—Le Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris (2009), Boxing Gym (2010), and Ex Libris—The New York Public Library (2016, YIDFF 2017). He has directed one fiction film, The Last Letter (2002).
In 2016 he received an Honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement. He is a MacArthur Fellow, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has won numerous awards, including four Emmys. In recent years, he directed Beckett’s Oh Les Beaux Jours and Vassily Grossman’s La Dernière Lettre at the Comédie Française in Paris and La Dernière Lettre at Theatre for a New Audience in New York. A ballet inspired by his first film, Titicut Follies, premiered at the New York University Skirball Theater in 2017.