April 24, 2016No Comments

In Jackson Heights, Frederick Wiseman, 2015

Eighty-five year old Frederick Wiseman presents in the freshest way possible a 3h+ documentary on the “most diverse neighbourhood in the world”, New York’s Jackson Heights, where apparently 167 languages are being spoken, as we speak.

An eulogy to how equality is being formed and sustained in the middle of  diversity. In Jackson Heights people live the communal life of a small village.

No commentary, only the voices of the people whose actions we’re witnessing:

  • a support group for LGBT;
  • a community organiser raising awareness amongst owners and small shop owners about the big real estate owners’ interest in taking over their neighbourhood, attractive for its 30 minutes commute to Manhattan, thus threatening to uproot many low to middle class people;
  • a madrasa teaching Arabic to kids;
  • a support group for “new Americans”, mostly illegally arrived Mexicans telling their hellish stories;
  • a school for taxi drivers where the teacher instructs his students, majority of which are older, disoriented immigrants, on how to read a map and the cardinal points (N is up, like the Nose, S is down, like the Shoes, E is to the right, like the hand you Eat with, and W is to the left, like the hand you Wipe your ass with). 
  • support groups for old people;

Great simple motifs create perfect unity and pattern. Tens of static shots of people’s faces. Bypassing as simplistic and overtly literal someone’s portrait  is foolish. The amount and quality of the information conveyed through shots like that is huge.

+ Tens of static shots of stands of food, of fruits, of flowers, of means of transportation, all shot in the brightest daylight possible, ignoring any golden hour rule. Clear, beautiful, evocative information.

Wiseman’s Jackson Heights feels like one big support group for all its people. Heart, stop jerking pls.


Email: bogdan.stamatin@gmail.com
Insta: @bogdanstamatin
Letterboxd film diary

© Bogdan Stamatin 2020-2024