Domestic Violence | Chicago Reader

Domestic Violence

One wouldn't expect a documentary by Frederick Wiseman about domestic violence to be anything less than powerful, but it's his subtle, low-key approach to such an emotionally charged subject—one too often presented in luridly melodramatic terms—that makes this 2001 film so devastating. After some brief early sequences involving police responses to domestic-battery incidents (one of which is very graphic), Wiseman spends the bulk of his time at a Tampa, Florida, shelter for abused women and their children, observing the shelter's deceptively mundane activities: intake interviews, staff meetings, case-management sessions, support groups, and schoolroom activities. The picture that emerges from these scenes is fittingly complex, and it sets up a final sequence that's as haunting as anything I've seen in a long time.

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