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Documentary maker Frederick Wiseman is on campus

Frederick Wiseman, who is shooting a film about UC Berkeley. Photo: Peg Skorpinski.

Renowned documentary maker Frederick Wiseman is making his 39th film and it’s going to be all about the university in our midst. The Boston-based director began shooting on the UC Berkeley campus last month, according to Barry Bergman writing in UC Berkeley News.

With his production company Zipporah Films, Wiseman, 80, has made a name for himself documenting institutions, be it a hospital, a theater or the army. He may be best known for Titicut Follies, a chilling look at the Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Massachusetts, made in 1967 and withheld from public view by the courts for more than 20 years.

Wiseman and his cameraman John Davey have been popping up everywhere on campus, Bergman reports, including in closed-door sessions of Chancellor Birgeneau’s cabinet. The finished film will air nationwide on PBS sometime in 2012 or 2013.

Wiseman tells Bergman that Berkeley is a good fit with his life’s work. “I wanted to do a university,” he said. “And by anyone’s standards, anywhere in the world, Berkeley is one of the great universities. I always try to pick a place that’s a good example of its kind. It’s more complicated, and it’s more interesting.”

A year-long retrospective of Wiseman’s films is currently showing at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Read Bergman’s article on UC Berkeley News.

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