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USA, 1975 (MIFF 1976)

Director: Frederick Wiseman

Welfare is the ninth in a series of documentary films about American institutions by Frederick Wiseman. His films since 1967 include studies of the law, the medical profession, schools, the military and the juvenile courts. Welfare, at two and three-quarter hours, is a long and ambitious examination of the people who go on the dole and the staff who administer the system.

Wiseman allows no scripted narration, no interviews, but stark black-and-white photography; a continuous, unobtrusive focus upon the clients of a particular welfare centre in New York city. A seemingly endless line of the poor, the homeless, the disabled and elderly queue for assistance. A befuddled veteran searches through his pockets in order to produce identification papers, a licence, anything to help establish an identity; groups of people haltingly explain their domestic crises; a destitute former marine rages at a black uniformed guard. The welfare workers argue among themselves as well as with their clients, overcome by the demands of the clumsy bureaucratic system.

'An overwhelming, outraged indictment of a bureaucracy gone mad, a poignant masterpiece of storytelling, and a work of art.'

John Corcoran Jnr., The National Observer

'Having created a quasi-fictional world that exists on its own terms, Wiseman has also succeeded, as never before, in making a film that speaks to larger social issues.'

Joseph Morgenstein, The N.Y. Times

'The program Welfare is the most powerful and discomforting look at the ‘welfare mess' I have ever seen.'

Benjamin Stein, The Wall Street Journal

Bronze Hugo, Chicago 1975. Golden Eagle, Cine, 1975.

See also...

PRIMATE (1974)

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Frederick Wiseman's latest work in an extraordinary succession of fifteen documentaries on the American way of life turns its pitiless glare away from institutional "casualties peace" to concentrate ... More »


"The world of reality television wouldn't exist without Frederick Wiseman's lingering examinations of fragments of society. And those who've grown up watching such programs should look at this film ... More »


For the past 35 years, Frederick Wiseman has meticulously documented a unique and penetrating view of American social relations and the institutions that try to mediate them. In Domestic Violence ... More »


Frederick Wiseman's documentary, Welfare, was screened at last year's Melbourne Film Festival, Meat is his ninth film, a study of one of America's largest meat processing works It is located in ... More »


... ... Veteran documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman turns his rigorous gaze on the cultural institution of classical dance in Ballet, an epic account of days and nights with the premier US ... More »

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