Renown and prolific filmmaker and documentarian (now with 40+ non-fiction titles to his credit), Frederick Wiseman turns his attention to Monrovia, Indiana, a farming community founded in 1834 with a current population of 1,063. With his distinct observational eye, Wiseman looks to find the ways this middle American town, far from the urban centers of the East and West coasts, forms and experiences its values, amid conflicting stereotypes and cliches. Though Monrovia’s in a county that voted overwhelming for Donald Trump in 2016, Wiseman’s film doesn’t aim for political reckoning. Instead, he peers closely at the town’s everyday rituals, rhythms and discourse—and its ceremonies of life, love and death—to deliver a quietly nuanced portrait of rural American life in this particular time and place.
Director’s Statement: “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. Monrovia, Indiana appealed to me because of its size (1,063 residents), location (I have never shot a film in the rural Midwest) and the shared cultural and religious interests within the community. During the nine weeks of filming the residents of Monrovia were helpful, friendly and welcoming and gave me access to all aspects of daily life. 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.”
“...To pin [Frederic Wiseman’s] work under the documentary rubric seems increasingly misleading. Poetry feels like a better classification. A Wiseman film —the newest is MONROVIA, INDIANA—doesn’t make an argument or tell a story. It’s not trying to raise awareness of a cause or a problem, though awareness is its currency and its reward. You arrive at meaning through patterns and rhythms, and you have to do some work to apprehend the structure and the themes. In return, you arrive at a kind of knowledge that’s impossible to summarize, and also to forget.” —A.O. Scott, New York Times “...A classic on a par with “Winesburg Ohio” and “Our Town,” a narrow slice of contemporary American life that manages to be both admiring, yet capable of polite skepticism… Deliberately paced, it accrues emotion and meaning in direct proportion to viewers’ willingness to let it flow through them and, perhaps, leave them permanently changed.” —Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post “An unhurried look at a location that is in no kind of rush, a place that is concerned most of all with preserving the way it's always been.” —Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
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