Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley Featured in New York Times

“What I’m interested in is making movies about as many different subjects as I can, and as many different forms of human experience.” — Frederick Wiseman

A class at UC Berkeley, from Frederick Wiseman's film At Berkeley.

Independent Lens, which featured Frederick Wiseman’s The Last Letter several years ago, is proud to have the master of cinéma vérité back for this coming season with his magnum opus about college campus life, At Berkeley.  The film will have its television premiere on Independent Lens in early January, 2014 [keep checking our site for updates], and is just about to have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

That festival premiere inspired The New York Times Nicolas Rapold to write about the film and Wiseman: “Film Chronicles the Inner Workings of Berkeley.”

Here’s just an excerpt:

In “At Berkeley,” we witness the autumn 2010 semester at a university in crisis, yet thriving. Mr. Wiseman uses the institution’s settings — the meetings, classes and protests — as stages to play out its multifaceted drama of people and ideas. A student’s tears at a financial aid session turn the moment into a portrait of middle-class America on the ropes. Budget meetings show the struggle to maintain the values of public education, and create a profile of a leader in then-Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. A goal is scored in a field hockey game. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in a lecture makes an example out of a valued former aide who was unafraid to criticize him. And — this is Berkeley — a reading room is occupied by the latest generation of student activists.

Read more about the film here and check back on Independent Lens for more about At Berkeley‘s upcoming premiere on PBS.

About Craig Phillips

ITVS/Independent Lens Interactive Editor and film nerd, based in San Francisco.
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  • Arfiezy

    Wow. I just watched it – – I was impressed by the range of perspectives that it covered (at least the parts of it I saw) — highly sophisticated electro-physics experimentation; manned space exploration to a bunch of freshmen; a string quartet playing very modern music; a janitor silently dusting a huge marble stairway; a classroom full of military veterans who had successfully re-entered civilian life by being accepted as students at Berkeley; and a student-staff-faculty demonstration in support of free college education.

    At one scene in the march across campus, the lead speaker (at the beginning of the last hour of the film) said something close to: It is on these grounds that we speak out: democracy is this, now; so in the names of we, the public, demand that the university of California return to being FREE, as it was as recently as when “Mario Savio spoke from these same steps”.

    Via the film, we sat in on the highest administration executive dialogue about their response to the large peaceful demonstration on behalf of a free education at Cal. Although I did not catch who the names & roles of “Me”, Harry (V Chancellor of Student Affairs?) and Bob (Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau) but it interested me at the way they dealt rather respectfully with the apparently long list of disparate demands by the protesters, but how Chancellor Bob characterized the protests as unfocused, unsophisticated etc. compared to the protests that *he participated in*, for example as a researcher working at Bell Labs. Although this came to be the closest point in the film at which the story of a real school-wide issue could be looked at by the filmmaker, and although it was the only such element in the entire film, it was never told as a story!

    Even it was portrayed as no more than another vignette among the dozens of others in this “travelogue” of a film. Count me as one unsatisfied by the film.