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Behind the Scenes at the Library

In honor of director Frederick Wiseman’s 42nd documentary, Ex Libris, local arts organization Pittsburgh Filmmakers is hosting Library Week at the Melwood and Regent Square Theaters. For those unfamiliar with Wiseman’s new film, it is a behind the scenes look at The New York Public Library. In celebration of all things library-related, Filmmakers is offering a special deal for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh cardholders and staff:

CLP card holders, show your ID for a free popcorn! CLP staff, show your ID for half price admission! We <3 CLP. We’re excited to team up with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for a week of movies celebrating one of our greatest resources – the public library!

The timing of this film screening could not be more perfect, since Saturday November 4th you can also get a behind the scenes look at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh by attending the Historic Pittsburgh Fair. Some highlights of the day include Pittsburgh trivia with Rick Seback, Home Movie Day, and the grand opening of the Library’s REcollection Studio — a DIY digitization lab that is free and open to the public by appointment. For more information you can visit the full event program here.

And if you’re interested in learning more about the films of Frederick Wiseman, The CLP – Music, Film & Audio Department currently holds 40 of his documentaries.  Here are a couple highlights to get you started:

Boxing Gym (2010)
If you have never watched a Frederick Wiseman documentary, this is an excellent place to start. At 91 minutes it is short by Wiseman standards, but representative of his overall body of work. There are no talking heads, no title cards — just an hour and a half of fly-on-the-wall footage observing the surprisingly diverse clientele of an Austin, TX boxing gym. It is meditative and oddly moving for a film about people practicing the art of beating each other bloody.

In Jackson Heights (2016)
At 3 hours and change, this is a more typical late-period Wiseman documentary. Once you get on the filmmaker’s wavelength though, this film is anything but boring. Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the U.S. (some say the world). Like all of his films there is no narration, no commentary, no title cards. We drop in on different characters, festivals, businesses and institutions in the neighborhood, and the overall effect is something The New York Times called “an ode to the immigrant experience.” Stick with it and you will be rewarded for your patience!

Titicut Follies (1967)
This was Wiseman’s first (and still most controversial) documentary, which took an intimate and unfiltered look at the lives of the patients at the Bridgewater State Institution for the criminally insane. After a handful of screenings, the film was banned from being shown publically, and has only been made readily available since 1991. Although it is a deeply upsetting film, it is now seen as an early and necessary attempt to shed some light on the unethical treatment of residents in (inadequately staffed) public mental health facilities.

La Danse (2009)
This is Wiseman’s third documentary focusing on dance, having profiled the American Ballet Theatre in Ballet (1995) and a tres chic French nude dancing club in Crazy Horse (2011). The film documents the inner workings of the Paris Opera Ballet through seven staged productions. At 159 minutes, it is a treat for ballet devotees, but is fascinating even if you are just a casual fan.

Happy viewing,

Looking for a great documentary to watch?

Check out In Jackson Heights today!

Tara is a Librarian in the Music, Film & Audio Department, and loves to make movie recommendations. Some of her interests outside of film include gardening, cookbooks, synthesizer music, comedy albums and devastating literary fiction.

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