High School

Film - Feature | September 28 | 3:30-4:45 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive


 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

“Establish that you can be a man and take orders,” the dean of discipline at Philadelphia's Northeast High admonishes a student hauled into the office for a minor infraction. At this middle-class, mostly white school, obedience to authority is lesson number one. Taken on its release in 1969 as an antiestablishment cry against institutional conformity, Wiseman’s documentary has acquired added resonance with age. Nearly fifty years later, educational methods may have changed, but the expressions of dreary futility on the students’ faces are still uncomfortably familiar. Meanwhile, Wiseman shows a chilling historical reality encroaching on the school’s closed system. A collage on a classroom wall is labeled “Our Troubled World”; a teacher reads aloud a letter from a former student who has learned to be a man and take orders in Vietnam: “I am only a body doing a job,” he writes. The teacher glows, “To me this means we are very successful.”

 CA, bampfapress@berkeley.edu, 5106420808