Over several months, Frederick Wiseman filmed everything that went on at City Hall in his hometown of Boston. He was present with a compact crew at meetings about homelessness, addiction support, preparation for the consequences of climate change, and accessibility for people with disabilities.
As the seat of local government, City Hall is an anchor point in the film, but it takes more than just meetings to run public life in a metropolis. Wiseman records with equal attention the inspection of a construction project, the police force’s morning briefing, garbage collection, and pest control. Volunteer initiatives and participative meetings show residents’ involvement with their neighborhood.
In long takes that compel us to listen patiently and to observe, this immersion in the functioning of a large, culturally diverse city goes to the heart of what it means to live together in a society. At a time of intense polarization in national politics, City Hall is a civilized plea for building solidarity.