Frederick Wiseman, an original and prolific documentary filmmaker, is the creator of 31 films. He explores institutions that are part of contemporary society. Averaging a film a year for the past 31 years, Wiseman has earned wide acclaim and critical respect for his unique approach, which avoids such filmmaking conventions as narration, interviews and added music.
Wiseman’s filmmaking career began in 1967 with Titicut Follies, a look at conditions inside the Bridgewater State Prison for the Criminally Insane. The only American film ever censored for reasons other than obscenity or national security, Titicut Follies was banned for 24 years by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until the ruling was overturned in 1991.
In the three decades since, Wiseman has made films about many key institutions of the late 20th century. Among his best known are: Public Housing, Hospital, Welfare, Model, Racetrack, Central Park, High School, High School II, Near Death, Basic Training, Aspen, The Store, La Comédie-Française ou L’Amour Joué, Ballet, Zoo and Belfast, Maine.
In addition to filmmaking, Wiseman also works in the theater as a director. In March 2000, he directed La Derniere Lettre, a play based on a chapter of Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate, at the Comédie-Franáaise in Paris. Projects he directed for the American Repertory Theatre include Joshua Goldstein’s Hate and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate; he co-directed Luigi Pirandello’s Tonight We Improvise. He also wrote the story and directed Welfare: The Opera for the American Music Theater Festival and the St. Ann’s Center for Restoration and the Arts.
Wiseman was awarded the Irene Diamond Award for Lifetime Achievement by Human Rights Watch during a retrospective of his work at the Lincoln Center Film Society in January 2000. He was recently awarded the Jesse L. Rosenberger Medal by the University of Chicago. Belfast, Maine received the Prize of Excellence at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Japan.
Wiseman is an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a fellow with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He has won numerous awards including the Emmy, Peabody and Columbia DuPont Award. His work has been screened in major film festivals and retrospectives around the world. Frederick Wiseman received his BA from Williams College and his LLB from the Yale Law School. He has received numerous honorary doctorates.