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.