MacArthur Fellows Program

Frederick Wiseman

Documentary Filmmaker | Class of 1982

Documentary Filmmaker
Cambridge, Massachusetts
52 at time of award
Area of Focus
Moving Image
Published August 1, 1982

About Frederick's Work

Frederick Wiseman is a filmmaker whose numerous documentaries explore American life as it is expressed in and through its institutions.

A lawyer by training, Wiseman has made over thirty films that range in subject from the American Ballet Theatre’s rehearsals to army basic training.  With an understated yet unflinching approach, he exposes often-overlooked aspects of these institutions’ complex workings and poses questions about the ideals that drive them.  His films have also depicted prison life for the criminally insane, the juvenile court system, and life in a Benedictine monastery.  His four 1986 films about the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind—Blind, Deaf, Adjustment and Work, and Multi-Handicapped—examine the lives of disabled Americans.  Wiseman’s fictional film, Seraphita’s Diary (1982), reconstructs the life of a famous fashion model through her diary, while Near Death (1989), examines how decisions are made to discontinue medical treatment for dying people.  Other works include Central Park (1989), Aspen (1991), La Comédie Française (1996), Public Housing (1997), Belfast, Maine (1999), La Dernière Lettre (2002), and The Garden (2004).


Wiseman’s production company, Zipporah Films, Inc., is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wiseman received a B.A. (1951) from Williams College and an L.L.B. (1954) from the Yale University Law School.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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