Documentary maker Frederick Wiseman has spent 40 years uncovering the hidden drama of American institutions, but he may have met his match in the Idaho state legislature, whose workings he recorded for an entire 118-day session. Running three hours and 38 minutes, this 2007 feature falls into a relentless clip-clop rhythm as Wiseman cuts back and forth between extended scenes of public hearings and short interludes of live music or other cultural activities brightening up the capitol building in Boise. The deliberations touch on some thorny issues—video voyeurism, secondhand smoke, electronic-waste disposal, the sale of human tissue, a proposed “American heritage” monument that quickly becomes an ideological football—but any expectation that Wiseman will follow them through to passage or defeat is frustrated as causes continue to proliferate. Despite a few revealing scenes of lobbyists testifying and buttonholing state senators in the halls, the private workings of government remain mostly off camera.
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Producer: Frederick Wiseman