Belfast, Maine

U.S.A. / 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

Frederick Wiseman

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 '97.

Director's Statement
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 other institutions.
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