/ 1999 / English / Color / 16mm / 248 min
Director, Editing, Sound, Producer: Frederick Wiseman
Photography: John Davey
Production Company: Belfast Film Inc
Source: Zipporah Films Inc
One Richdale Avenue, Unit #4, Cambridge, MA 02140
Phone:1-617-576-3603 / Fax:1-617-864-8006
Born in Boston in 1930. Made his directorial debut in 1967 during
the height of direct cinema with Titicut Follies, a film about
a facility for the criminally insane. Wiseman has made about one film
per year throughout his 30 year filmmaking career. High School
(1968), Law and Order (1969), Manoeuvre (1979),
Missile (1987), Near Death (1989), High School II
(1994), and Ballet (1995) all explore the daily routine
of American institutions. Model (1980) was shown as a special
invitation film at YIDFF '91 and Zoo (1993) won the Mayor's
Prize at YIDFF '93. La Comedie Francaise ou l'amour joue(1996)
was awarded a Special Prize at YIDFF '97.
In 1998 a large-scale retrospective of his films toured Japan.
The town of Belfast,
Maine is the protagonist of this, Frederick Wiseman's 30th film about
contemporary American life. Says Wiseman, "When I started in
1966, a lot of the documentary movies were following just one famous
person. I thought it would be interesting to make a movie where the
place would be the star."* Belfast seems to be a place out of
its own time. Many of the citizens are aged, some of them needing
permanent care, and amongst the beautiful autumn leaves of the state
of Maine, many of the houses are abandoned. Yet, issues concerning
contemporary American society; changes in sexual and gender morals,
HIV, drug addiction, child abuse, Medicare reform, etc., are also
this town's concerns.
At this crossroads of past and present, the historical aspects of
Wiseman's films, already apparent in La Comédie Française
ou l'amour joué and Public Housing are further developed.
Some viewers may think that the portrayals of hospital, court of law,
high-school, meat processing factories, and social workers at work,
are self-parodies of Wiseman's previous films. Have Arthur Miller
and Herman Melville, two great American authors who are referred to
in this film, inspired the filmmaker?
As always, Wiseman's masterful structuring of his footage provokes
many a thought in the viewers' minds. Using water and its various
forms as leitmotif, he compiles this mosaic portrait of an American
small town filled with poesy. [Fujiwara Toshifumi]
*Mr.Wiseman's comments from an interview with the author at YIDFF
I have always been fascinated by ordinary experience. By "ordinary"
I mean simply experiences that many people have in one from or another,
although the specific aspects of their experiences may be unique.
A film about a small town, in this case Belfast, Maine, gave
me a chance to look at a small city in the same way that I have studied
Belfast, Maine is a film about a beautiful old New England
port city originally settled in the 17th century. The film is a portrait
of daily life with particular emphasis on the work and the cultural
life of the community. Among the activities shown in the film are
the work of lobster men, tug-boat operators, factory workers, shop
owners, city counselors, doctors, judges, policemen, teachers, social
workers, nurses and ministers. Cultural activities include choir rehearsal,
dance class, music lessons and theater production. The film is about
ordinary experience in this small American city.
Belfast, Maine links together some of the principal themes
of my previous films and at the same time tries to give a sense of
the rhythm of daily life and experience which is familiar to and forms
the common experience of many Americans.
COPYRIGHT:Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee