Toronto, IDFA, CPH:DOX, London, Busan, Zurich, Hamburg, Rio, Vienna, Camerimage
An immersive look at the titular institution.
Wiseman, the master of institutional portraits, here introduces the viewer to the various roles and functions of the New York Public Library. Far from being only a storehouse for books, the NYPL – as represented by several of its 92 branches citywide – instead underscores its essential role in serving the citizenry. Less about the literature it offers and more about the people who make use of it, Wiseman’s film drops the audience into a seemingly endless buzz of activity, from job recruitment fairs to book club meetings, children’s literacy programs and conversations with the likes of Patti Smith and Ta-Nehisi Coates, music concerts and accessibility programs for the blind and deaf. As in several of his other works, the director also offers intriguing behind the scenes moments, revealing library staff addressing how they are staying current and relevant to the needs of their users, such as offering expanded Internet access and a greater selection of eBooks. While its arguable that Wiseman could have accomplished as vibrant a profile in less than the film’s 3 hour plus run time, it remains an illuminating project.