Airing at 10 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13 on the PBS Independent Lens series, At Berkeley is celebrated filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s 38th documentary. In it he explores the University of California, Berkeley — the oldest and most prestigious member of a 10-campus public education system, also considered one of the finest research and teaching facilities in the world — taking viewers from faculty meetings and classrooms to sporting events and campus protests. Known for exposing the inner workings of American institutions, Wiseman directed his camera at Berkeley in 2010 “for two reasons: It’s public and it’s a great university.” ‘
The intimate yet sprawling film, named by numerous critics as one of the best documentaries of 2013, depicts major aspects of university life with particular emphasis on administrative efforts to maintain the academic excellence, public role and the economic, racial and social diversity of the student body of America’s greatest public university during a time of declining state funding. While the film brings the uncertain but hopeful future of public education into stark focus, it has also begun to shape the national conversation around higher learning.
After its debut at the Venice Film Festival in September 2013, where the film won the Silver Mouse award, At Berkeley continued to make its way through the film-festival circuit and enjoyed a limited theatrical release from New York to Los Angeles. So far this year, the film has been selected by the Online Film Critics as one of the top five documentaries in 2013, the National Society of Film Critics as the best nonfiction film of 2013, Indie Wire’s Top Docs of 2013, and Variety‘s top-10 list of films for 2013. Wiseman was also recognized with a special award for his body of work by the New York Film Critics Circle as part of its 2013 year-end awards.
Here’s what select media are saying about At Berkeley:
“Mr. Wiseman has established himself as one of America’s greatest chroniclers in any medium.” Nicolas Rapold, The New York Times
“I can’t think of another film portrait of higher education that matches this one for comprehensiveness, intellectual depth, and hope.” David Denby, The New Yorker
“Narration-free and artfully discursive, it’s a one-of-a-kind mosaic portrait of a great institution struggling, under dire stress, to retain its essential character at a time of declining support for public education.” Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
Tune in or set your devices to record At Berkeley on Monday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m. Please check your local listings.