High School (1968 film)
|Directed by||Frederick Wiseman|
High School is a 1968 American documentary film directed by Frederick Wiseman that shows a typical day for a group of students at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was one of the first direct cinema (or cinéma vérité) documentaries. It was shot over five weeks in March and April 1968. The film was not shown in Philadelphia at the time of its release, because of Wiseman's concerns over what he called "vague talk" of a lawsuit.
The film was released in November 1968 by Zipporah Films, Wiseman's distribution company. High School has aired on PBS. Wiseman distributes his work (DVDs and 16mm prints) through Zipporah Films, which rents them to high schools, colleges, and libraries on a five-year long-term lease. High School was selected in 1991 for preservation in the National Film Registry.
In 1994, Wiseman released High School II, a second documentary on high school, based on Central Park East Secondary School in New York City.
Reception and interpretation
Film critic David Denby, writing in the New York Review of Books, described High School as "a savagely comic portrait" of an urban high school in a period of emerging social unrest:
... [t]he movie was shot in 1968, and the school was then clearly attempting to hold off what it perceived as cultural anarchy outside its walls. Many of the teachers and administrators are exercising a bland and frightened dictatorship; their speech is deadened as if any sign of life might inspire the students to break out of control.
Meanwhile, dull and demoralized by the teachers' inability to bring any subject to life, many of the best students are gathered in a class of malcontents where they sit in resentful torpor - they are also victims of the hypocrisy and authoritarianism promoted in the school ...
- Ellsworth, Liz. Frederick Wiseman: A Guide to References and Resources. Boston, MA: G.K.Hall & Co., 1979.
- Grant, Barry Keith. "Five films by Frederick Wiseman" University of California Press, 2006.
- Rosenthal, Alan. The New Documentary In Action: A Casebook in Film Making. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1971.