Paperland: The Bureaucrat Observed

    • Donald Brittain
    • Canada
    • 1979
    • 58 min
    • Top 10
    With a voice-over that is as critical as it is ironic, director Donald Brittain examines the 'homo bureaucratus'. The effect is reminiscent of a nature documentary, in which an animal species is observed while the voice-over describes its habits, habitat and survival instincts. In the beginning, the bureaucrat, "that most despised of human beings," is compared with a cockroach: seemingly useless, having lots of enemies and ineradicable. In various countries, including Germany, Vatican City, communist Hungary, and Canada, we witness the bureaucrat's routine, aversion to change and particularly his partiality for paper. We see a bureaucrat struggle with the request from an old man, who asks him not to remodel an elevator, because otherwise he will not be able to get to his apartment for six months. Or a man on an island with fewer than three hundred inhabitants, who single-handedly keeps the bureaucracy running. In a business meeting of civil servants, they assess whether a man's heart attack started during or right after working hours - the height of his widow's pension will depend on this. Together with two former officials, Brittain discusses the fruitlessness of commission meetings, the absurd ways in which bureaucrats make careers for themselves, and the hidden meanings of official jargon.


    • 58 min
    • color
    • video
    • Spoken languages: English
    Donald Brittain
    Donald Brittain for National Film Board of Canada, Marrin Canell for National Film Board of Canada
    Executive producer
    Paul Wright, Barrie Howells
    Douglas Kiefer, Barry Perles
    Richard Todd

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