In Jackson Heights
In the course of his brilliant, nearly half-century career, Frederick Wiseman has tackled both great social institutions (a prison for the criminally insane, high school, military, police, juvenile court, the welfare system) and cultural ones (La Comédie Franҫaise, the Paris Opéra Ballet, American Ballet Theater, London’s National Gallery).
With IN JACKSON HEIGHTS he profiles one of New York’s most diverse neighborhoods, with immigrants from Peru, Colombia, Mexico, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan (167 languages are spoken) — as well as elderly residents of Jewish, Irish and Italian extraction. Under the elevated train, a hodge-podge of stores sell whole baby goats, saris, and Bollywood DVDs; they offer HIV testing, Tibetan food, and classes for would-be cabbies.
Jackson Heights is home to an activist LGBT community, to recent survivors of terrifying border crossings, students of the Quran, and small shop-owners who mobilize against the Williamsburg-ization of the neighborhood. Wiseman embraces a community that revels in still being affordable, 20 minutes from “the city,” and resolutely unhip.
"CRITIC’S PICK. A thrilling, transporting love letter from Frederick Wiseman to New York and its multi-everything glory… A movingly principled, political look at a dynamic neighborhood… An epic of a city, its people and the democratic process… By the time fireworks are soaring, your heart is, too."
"AMONG MR. WISEMAN’S MASTERPIECES. An immersive celebration of democracy. Under Mr. Wiseman’s watchful, empathetic eye, the ordinary rises to the level of poetry."
"About the very stuff of life. The film meticulously, intellectually, allusively, yet ardently shows a crucial aspect of American experience, a working-out on film of the American democratic idea."
"A perfectly panoramic portrait of the new America. It’s a feel-good movie…about America being what it’s supposed to be. Wryly funny…most of the film is set within a heady ethnic mélange, where all the food looks delicious and the sense of energy and intelligence are acute. A very entertaining movie – should be earning Wiseman a Pulitzer Prize. But an Oscar would be OK."
"America’s documentary doyen, Frederick Wiseman… A colorful patchwork…the very un-American sight of streets swarmed with soccer enthusiasts is but one of the ways in which the extreme cultural diversity of Jackson Heights is rendered visible. The film’s comedic highlight (is) a visit to a course on ‘Brooklyn’ for aspiring taxi drivers. By simply contrasting short sequences that each tell a small story, Wiseman constructs a much larger mosaic."
"Almost gives you the feeling of actually living in the places and institutions he makes his films about, in some real-time, unedited sense. Wiseman has a knack for finding good talkers. There is an entertainingly raucous class for trainee yellow dab drivers of all nationalities and languages, being harangued by a very droll teacher. Takes its own implied, modest stand against ageism… these scenes look like something Woody Allen might have shot for a film like BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. An engaging portrait – film-making which works from the ground up."