Welfare (1975)




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Movie Info

This in-depth look at the nature and complexity of the welfare system prompted New York Social Welfare Commissioner James R. Dumpson to comment, "I wish all the public, as well as legislators and politicians, could see this film. It could have been made in any urban area in the United States." Acclaimed documentarian Frederick Wiseman examines a wide diversity of welfare-related situations during the film's 167 minutes. Areas covered include unemployment, housing, divorce, medical and psychiatric problems, concerns of the elderly, child abuse, and abandoned children. Both welfare workers and clients are seen struggling to interpret the laws, rules and regulations that govern their work and lives. Richard Zoglin (Time) wrote that Wiseman's cameras "have observed institutions from a New York City welfare office to Dallas's Neiman-Marcus department store, all with the same unvarnished...style."


Critic Reviews for Welfare

All Critics (4) | Top Critics (2)

The psychology of poverty has rarely been so well depicted, along with the inadequacy of the bureaucracy itself: the ostensible objectivity of the law rests on the subjective judgments, even the good will, of the caseworkers.

Apr 10, 2017 | Full Review…

One of Frederick Wiseman's strongest documentaries.

Apr 9, 2015 | Full Review…

No one could deny Wiseman's extraordinary sympathy for the insulted and the injured of American society. Yet he doesn't romanticize or politicize the oppressed.

Aug 13, 2018 | Full Review…

Welfare at times feels like the real-life, ensemble-cast version of a Kafka novel.

May 3, 2018 | Full Review…

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