Screening on Film
Directed by Frederick Wiseman.
US, 1969, 16mm, black & white, 84 min.
Print source: Zipporah Films

Rather than an excoriating review of Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, Wiseman’s film mainly depicts a tireless crew of healthcare workers humanely managing a chaotic center of stress, pain, confusion and trauma—at times with great humor. The doctors and nurses wear multiple hats—acting as social workers and health care advocates for a financially and socially distressed population. A nurse contemplates taking home for the night a little boy who has neither a hospital bed nor a responsible parent; a psychologist basically supports a troubled man’s gay lifestyle—despite its illegal aspects; a female doctor patiently counsels an older man embarrassed by his intimate issue. Many of those who grasp the complexity of the human situation fight against bureaucrats in an office on the other end of the phone. Overwhelmingly, most of the cases on view—alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, negligence—represent the deeper afflictions of a dysfunctional civilization with few safeguards in place for their poor, elderly or mentally ill.

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2018 Norton Lectures in Cinema:
Frederick Wiseman

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