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Plot, Details & Awards

High School

PG-13 In Theaters 11/26/1999 , 75min.
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Plot & Details

In 1991, the National Film Preservation Board selected High School (1969) for inclusion in the National Film Registry. Richard Schickel, writing in Life, called this a "wicked, brilliant documentary about life in a lower-middle-class secondary school." Acclaimed filmmaker Frederick Wiseman roamed freely through Philadelphia's Northeast High School to document a continual clash of teens with administrators who confused learning with discipline. At 75 minutes, this is one of Wiseman's shortest documentaries, yet the impact is just as memorable as in his three-hour films. Both facts and social values are transmitted from one generation to another, and such social conditioning is seen in a series of formal and informal encounters between teachers, students, parents, and administrators. One disciplinarian lectures a minor offender: "We are out to establish that you are a man and that you can take orders." Wiseman went back to school 25 years later to film more successful student-teacher interactions and progressive teaching methods at an alternative high school in New York's Spanish Harlem, seen in his much longer (220 minutes) High School II (1994).
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Genre(s): Documentary,Special Interest
  • Run Time: 75min.
  • Theatrical Release Date: 11/26/1999
  • Distributor(s): No Studio
  • Director(s): Frederick Wiseman
  • Themes: Generation Gap,Kids in Trouble,High School Life,Teachers and Students
  • Tone: Atmospheric,Bittersweet,Bleak,Earnest,Intimate,Matter-of-Fact,Understated
  • Keywords: Americana, Vietnam, boredom, discipline, high-school, public-school, teacher
  • Language: English


Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
2009 IDFA Film Presented Nominated

Library of Congress

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1990 Library of Congress U.S. National Film Registry Won

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