In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse communities in the world.  Boasting 167 spoken languages, a robust queer and transgender community, a proactive local government and some of the best restaurants in New York City, Jackson Heights is not a utopia so much as an ongoing social project achieved through the activism and collaboration of its residents.  As Manhattanites look to relocate to the affordable outer boroughs, the people of Jackson Heights congregate in community centers and beauty salons to campaign against gentrification.  This film gives the viewer a privileged seat at these discussions.

True to form, Wiseman has not forced the depicted events into a narrative arc or imbued them with false sentimentality.  Rather, he lets the footage be what it is: unglamorous, exuberant, awkward or mundane, but always meaningful in its own right.  But we shouldn’t mistake this absence of traditional narrative for a lack of intention and authorship.  The director sculpts the footage with a deft hand, leaving only the subtlest of fingerprints; and because of their subtlety, these fingerprints are rewarding to find.  There are times when we can sense Wiseman’s deliberate choice to let an uncomfortable scene run long, or to fix his camera’s stern gaze on a subject in a way that feels almost incredulous.  These longer scenes are punctuated by fleeting images that layer color and texture onto the lean footage: storefronts, a parade, a soup kitchen, a nightclub.

Such personal choices on the part of the filmmaker make it clear that in addition to being a documentarian, Wiseman is an auteur.  His film is not only a document that perserves a politically charged moment in a complex community: it is a work of art, crafted by a master.


In This Series

In Jackson Heights

Film

In Jackson Heights
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
6:00 pm9:15 pm

In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens...

In Jackson Heights

Film

In Jackson Heights
Friday, November 20, 2015
6:30 pm9:45 pm

In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens...

In Jackson Heights

Film

In Jackson Heights
Saturday, November 21, 2015
1:00 pm4:15 pm

In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens...

In Jackson Heights

Film

In Jackson Heights
Sunday, November 22, 2015
11:00 am2:15 pm

In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens...

In Jackson Heights

Film

In Jackson Heights
Friday, November 27, 2015
6:30 pm9:45 pm

In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens...

In Jackson Heights

Film

In Jackson Heights
Saturday, November 28, 2015
12:30 pm3:45 pm

In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens...

In Jackson Heights

Film

In Jackson Heights
Sunday, November 29, 2015
12:30 pm3:45 pm

In Jackson Heights by Frederick Wiseman (USA, 2015, 190 min.). With his 40th documentary film, Frederick Wiseman plunges us into the Queens...