Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fred Wiseman's documentaries now on DVD

For years it has been difficult to acquire legitimate copies of Frederick Wiseman's distinguished series of documentaries on tape. Now at long last they are available on DVD. The prices are fairly high for institutions on licenses that include public exhibition rights (typically $400) but the films are available to individuals for $29.95.

I have long worried that Wiseman's films had fallen out of our collective memory because of the difficulties of access. At long last most of the films are accessible. It's a great opportunity for anyone who cares about documentary, and it makes studying the films systematically or teaching a course on Wiseman's films much more reasonable than it has been for decades.

Beginning with Titicut Follies (1967), Wiseman has chronicled American life and institutions in a brilliant series of long-form observational documentaries inflected with his own personal vision.

This is a special treat for me -- in 1989 Carolyn Anderson and I published Reality Fictions: The Films of Frederick Wiseman (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press), which was succeeded by a second edition in 2002.

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