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Documentary Dilemmas

Documentary Dilemmas

Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies

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Carolyn Anderson and Thomas W. Benson


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
252 pages, 6 x 9


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About the Book

A case history of the only American film under court-imposed restrictions for reasons other than obscenity or national security.

Titicut Follies
is an excoriating depiction of conditions in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Bridgewater, a prison-hospital for the criminally insane. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts took Wiseman to court, seeking to prevent the exhibition of Titicut Follies soon after its release in 1967.

This account of the Titicut Follies case is based on ten years of research and relies on interviews, journalistic accounts, and especially on the legal record, including the Commonwealth v. Wiseman transcript, to describe the entire process of independent documentary filmmaking. The trials of Titicut Follies raise crucial questions about the relation of social documentary to its subjects and audiences.


Carolyn Anderson is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts.

Thomas W. Benson is Professor of Speech Communication at The Pennsylvania State University.