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It Takes Time: Ten Films by Frederick Wiseman at ACMI

This ACMI retrospective showcases an award-winning documentarian and his commitment to examining American institutions.
By Sarah Ward
April 12, 2022
By Sarah Ward
April 12, 2022

Most folks haven't spent time in a prison for the criminally insane. If you live in Australia, odds are that you haven't navigated the American welfare system, either. And, you likely didn't go to a New York City high school — and you probably haven't walked into a Florida domestic violence shelter as well.

But watch the documentaries of Frederick Wiseman and you'll feel otherwise. His observational films peer deeply at the institutions they're surveying, and offer viewers the next best thing to being there. It was true of In Jackson Heights, which is set in the culturally diverse NYC neighbourhood. It's the same of Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, which is clearly about the obvious. And it's accurate of Central Park, gloriously so.

For the past 55 years, Wiseman has amassed quite the filmography — and a selection of his movies will be flickering across Melbourne's ACMI thanks to a retrospective program in conjunction with the Sydney Film Festival. At It Takes Time: Ten Films by Frederick Wiseman at ACMI, the documentarian's first-ever directorial effort, Titicut Follies, will get a showing. So too will 2020's City Hall. Pretend to spend a whole lot of time staring at the screen, being transported to the US and savouring every second of it.

Also on the lineup: 2009's La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet, spreading the Wiseman love beyond American institutions.

This ode to the now 92-year-old filmmaker will kick off on Sunday, May 22 and run through till Sunday, September 25.

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