Frederick Wiseman, legendary vérité documenter of American institutions, draws us into the lecture halls, seminars, clubrooms, board meetings and student rallies of the country’s great public university. Filming in 2010, when the viability of public education was once more under siege, he shows us administrators and students variously confronting crisis. We also sit in on classes and symposia (on the origins of time, the erotic metaphors in Donne, survivalist behaviour in insects) that pulse with the excitement of what’s under threat: elucidation and independent intellectual enquiry.
“Wiseman doesn’t waste a frame as he charts a tumultuous year on the UC Berkeley campus, as everyone from the regents to the incoming class feels the pinch of reduced state funding for public higher education. Revolution stirs, then quickly – almost comically – subsides; Berkeley in the 60s this certainly isn’t. Yet time and again Wiseman’s camera alights on impassioned, opinionated young people flush with the belief that they might make a real difference in the world (and not just a lot of money). No movie I saw in 2013 left me more suffused with hope for the future.” — Scott Foundas, Variety
“Magisterial... Without overtly editorializing, the film quietly and steadfastly champions state-funded public education available to all. In the language of one commentator, the film’s subject is ‘how capitalism is reshaping education’ in an age of dwindling resources and the fading of the middle-class dream. Diversity, to which Berkeley appears deeply committed, is central to the enterprise.” — Stephen Holden, NY Times