If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Such seems to be the guiding principle of documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s decades-long output, as the beloved filmmaker continues to turn his keen eye on yet another part of the uniquely American experience with his newest film, “Monrovia, Indiana.”
Per its official synopsis, “The film explores the conflicting stereotypes and illustrates how values like community service, duty, spiritual life, generosity and authenticity are formed, experienced and lived. The film gives a complex and nuanced view of daily life in Monrovia and provides some understanding of a rural, mid-American way of life that has always been important in America but whose influence and force have not always been recognized or understood in the big cities on the east and west coasts of America and in other countries.”
In his IndieWire review, Eric Kohn wrote of the film that it’s “more impressionistic than the searing intellectualism of his last work, ‘Monrovia, Indiana’ at once demonstrates Wiseman’s formidable cinematic capabilities while posing a number of tantalizing questions about the community at its center. The movie wanders aplenty, with a slippery focus that makes the purpose of this freewheeling portrait somewhat challenging to assess. At the same time, it provides a welcome alternative to red-state caricatures by extending beyond overt political debate. This may be Trump country, but nobody talks about Trump.”
For Wiseman, the film was all about exploring the kind of slice-of-life Americana that has so often compelled his creations. “I thought a film about a small farming community in the Midwest would be a good addition to the series I have been doing on contemporary American life,” Wiseman said in an official statement. “Life in big American cities, on the east and west coasts, is regularly reported on and I was interested in learning more about life in small town America and sharing my view.”
Despite its hefty subject matter, the film’s the running time clocks in at just 143 minutes, which ranks it as one of Wiseman’s shortest feature-length documentaries ever (21 out of 43 to be precise) and his shortest is seven years.
The film world premiered at Venice last month, and will next screen at NYFF before rolling out theatrically. The film will open at New York City’s Film Forum on October 26, followed by a Los Angeles and Chicago release on November 2, with further markets to follow in November and December.
Check out IndieWire’s exclusive trailer for “Monrovia, Indiana” below.