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‘City Hall’ Trailer: Frederick Wiseman’s Boston Portrait Is a Microcosm of America

Exclusive: IndieWire premieres the trailer for the documentary master's sprawling look at the municipal government in his hometown.

City Hall

“City Hall”

Zipporah Films/screenshot

“Titicut Follies,” “High School,” “Ex Libris,” “In Jackson Heights,” and so many more. Documentary master Frederick Wiseman, at 90 years old, has turned out many of the greatest nonfiction films of all time — patiently unfolding, intimate, and deeply researched portraits of places and people, and what they can tell us about American life on a grander scale. His 43rd film, “City Hall” immerses audiences in the municipality of his hometown of Boston to illustrate a government taking care of its diverse citizens, all against the backdrop of an eroding democracy in the United States. Exclusive to IndieWire, watch the first trailer for the film below.

The four-and-a-half-hour “City Hall” first debuted out of competition at the Venice Film Festival in September, followed by a North American premiere in Toronto this month, and then landing at the New York Film Festival, long a favorite venue for Wiseman’s works. Here’s an official synopsis of the film: “City government touches almost every aspect of our lives. Most of us are unaware of or take for granted these necessary services such as police, fire, sanitation, veterans affairs, elder support, parks, licensing of various professional activities, record keeping of birth, marriage, and death as well as hundreds of other activities that support Boston residents and visitors.

“‘City Hall’ shows the efforts by Boston city government to provide these services. The film also illustrates the variety of ways the city administration enters into civil discourse with the citizens of Boston. Mayor Walsh and his administration are presented addressing a number of their policy priorities which include racial justice, affordable housing, climate action, and homelessness. ‘City Hall’ shows a city government successfully offering a wide variety of services to a diverse population.”

Wiseman, meanwhile, also offered a statement to the Venice Film Festival: “I made ‘City Hall’ to illustrate why government is necessary for people to successfully live together. ‘City Hall’ shows a city government offering a wide variety of important and necessary services to a major American city whose population exemplifies the history of diversity of America. The Boston city government is designed and strives to offer these services in a manner consistent with the Constitution and democratic norms.”

Wiseman’s distributor Zipporah Films will handle the release of “City Hall” theatrically in November.

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