Frederick Wiseman Season
Sun Jun 26 1:00 PM

Arc Cinema
Allocated Seating
167 Mins
1975 | 16MM | USA | D: Frederick Wiseman

The staggering complexity of the American welfare system – and the countless personal dramas it seeks to accommodate – captured by a compassionate eye.  

Wiseman sets the tone and focus right out of the blocks in this observational, narration-free documentary set mostly in Manhattan’s Waverley Welfare Centre, when a young First Nations man plaintively exclaims, “I’m a human being!” It’s a wrenching plea for dignity that echoes throughout the scenes that follow, as a succession of weary citizens navigate a labyrinth of departments and bureaucratic processes in order to qualify for social security, food stamps and pensions. Harried caseworkers and supervisors mostly exercise latitude where they can, with a striking exception or two. If the subject sounds bleak, the candour and directness of the protagonists is utterly disarming.  

During one interview, a now destitute former teacher invokes Beckett’s Godot; and a compelling exchange between a bigoted, middle-aged ex-Marine and a 22-year-old Afro-American Vietnam veteran encapsulates the deeply entrenched divisions that continue to be weaponised in American society nearly 50 years after the film was made. 
‘Wiseman's film shows... a battleground with the poor fighting... a complex web of Catch 22 regulations that can defeat even the strongest... An amazing film.’ - London Film Festival  

Arc Cinema

1 McCoy Circuit Acton, Australian Capital Territory, 2601