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TIFF 2020 Review: City Hall – “Making the world all the more understandable and fascinating”

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Frederick Wiseman explores how the municipality of Boston operates and interacts both at governmental and community levels.

Frederick Wiseman remains a one-man production crew who writes, directs, edits and sound designs his own documentaries without any indication of slowing down at the age of 90.  He does have a career fascination in how institutions function and their societal impact.  This time around Wiseman focuses on his hometown of Boston to understand how cities operate and the various services that they provide.  The trademarks remain like relying solely on the natural sounds of the environment in which the camera is placed, having no narration, long takes, and segments that place the viewer in the middle of the action, and montages that serve as transitions.

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The only person frequently showing up is Mayor Marty Walsh who comes across as an inclusive and empathetic individual.  The different seasons and times of day show up in the montages which provide a sense of what it is actually like to live in the city.  The cast of characters is varied but they are allowed the time to express their views rather than be given a token onscreen appearance.  How unguarded people are in front of the camera it is hard to say.  Wiseman is as unintrusive as possible as he recognizes that the real story is in front of the camera.  It is great to see that an international treasure has not lost his touch in making the world all the more understandable and fascinating.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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