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Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Wiseman has described his documentaries as “reality fictions” and frequently compares his art to novel writing. Now, after 50 years of training his camera on institutions, he finally channels his passion for books to get inside the New York Public Library. Over several weeks in 2015, we observe multiple facets of the library, not only in midtown Manhattan but also in less frequented neighbourhoods. As with his last film, In Jackson Heights, Wiseman pays close attention to immigrant communities, and scenes of citizens taking advantage of the library’s Braille classes and book clubs are juxtaposed against gala fundraising and boardroom decision-making. Newcomers to Wiseman should be mindful that his methodology is to show, not tell, what’s going on, leaving viewers to do their own thinking about what’s on screen.