"At Berkeley" Movie Review: 3 1/2 Stars
by Michael Phillips
In the fall of 2010, documentary filmmaker
He and a two-person crew embarked on a three-month project, auditing with their cameras a semester or so in the life of
"At Berkeley" is Wiseman's latest in a career devoted to the inner workings of American institutions, plus the occasional foreign object.
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His recent "Crazy Horse" was about the famous burlesque club in
In Wiseman's time-honored fashion, "At Berkeley" doesn't identify any of the camera subjects by name.
We become participants, detectives, observers in each new boardroom, each new classroom. We are lost, right along with many
of the students, trying to parse astrophysics or the poetry of
The fragility of public education looms in the background of every scene, but, as always, Wiseman proves a wizard at shutting up and listening and learning.
Throughout "At Berkeley" you're struck by the filmmaker's gentle insistence that any conversation, any meeting, every
teacher/student interaction reveals a world of subtle power dynamics. There's a moment in the picture when former U.S.
Secretary of Labor
"I wanted to do a public university, and Berkeley is a great public university," Wiseman told one
interviewer last year at the
The film covers student protests (of course; it's Berkeley) and Thoreau, campus security seminars and a painfully honest revelation from one fraught student about the clique-y, exclusionary nature of his study groups.
In recent years, as he has all his life, Wiseman has made relatively compact films (his gorgeous "Boxing Gym" runs 91 minutes) and spacious ones ("State Legislature" runs 217). "At Berkeley" is a tick longer than four hours in length, and it feels just right.
No MPAA rating, Running time: 4:04.
"At Berkeley" Movie Trailer
The University of California at Berkeley, the oldest and most prestigious member of a ten campus public education system, is also one of the finest research and teaching facilities in the world. The film, At Berkeley, shows the major aspects of university life, its intellectual and social mission, its obligation to the state and to larger ideas of higher education, as well as illustrates how decisions are made and implemented by the administration in collaboration with its various constituencies