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Last week, I lucked out in getting to see and hear 2 presentations by documentary greats: Errol Morris and Frederick Wiseman. Both gave talks within a stone's throw of the LEF New England headquarters in Cambridge. On Tuesday, Errol Morris spoke at Harvard's Graduate School of Design about "Investigating with a Camera," illustrating his ideas with clips from his films. He's a writer as well as a filmmaker and a very animated speaker, which made for an interesting talk and Q&A about filmmaking as a process of assembling evidence. He was adamant about there being a definte truth and reality to events, a truth that the filmmaker needs to investigate and find out.

He used to be an actual private investigator, but Morris' documentaries are very far from being depositions, and I liked the point that another of the speakers at the event, Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, made about how his films manage to leave room for the unique point of view and unknowable experiences of each of his subjects, even as he's...

As part of the ongoing Frederick Wiseman retrospective happening at the Harvard Film Archive,
this week brings us screenings of the Cambridge-based filmmaker's Belfast, Maine (1999) (Sunday 20 Nov. at 6pm) and Titicut Follies (1967) (Monday 21 Nov at 7pm). Belfast, Maine is "serenely composed of the illuminating routines and intimate minutiae" of a New England town, while Titicut Follies, Wiseman's first film (also set in New England, in Massachusetts), "proved so shocking in its unadorned rendering of a state mental institution that it remains the only American film to have been completely censored for reasons other than obscenity or national security."  No matter what slice of American life he chooses to film, Wiseman's documentaries are engrossing - this is a chance to see a part of his panorama of work on a big screen.

In a special event on 2 Dec, the filmmaker will be at the HFA in person to talk about The Last Letter (La Dernier Lettre), his only fiction film. The last movie of the series is State Legsislature on 2 Dec - a film that LEF supported with a Production grant.

The screenings at the HFA coincide with Frederick Wiseman's Phelps Lecture at the Radcliffe Institude for Advanced Study on Dec 1:"Shooting, Editing, and Reading a Documentary Film"

"Frederick Wiseman will discuss—and illustrate with sequences from his films—his approach to documentary filmmaking. He will address choice of subject, fundraising, technical filming
issues, sound recording and editing, analysis of sequences, relation of facts to metaphor and abstraction, and the creation of a dramatic structure. Wiseman will end with a discussion
about how he applies the principles of "close reading" to film." 

The lecture is free and open to the public on Dec 1 at 4pm at the Radcliffe Gymnasium, 10 Garden St. Cambridge MA.

- Nellie

New England