Law and Order

Watching Law & Order, one feels almost as if the black and white 16mm film is the only signifier of time having passed; Wiseman’s attention to the structures of law enforcement and their interaction with race and class seems not to have aged one bit, even 47 years later. The made-for-TV, Emmy-winning doc (best news documentary in 1969) is the filmmaker’s foray into the riots-era Kansas City, MO police department of 1968. As his camera roves, it captures myriad situations that officers are called upon to resolve – some appropriately within their jurisdiction, and others seemingly dumped upon them because civilians didn’t know where else to turn; one such a case is a domestic dispute over child-custody which results in the officer telling the child’s father that he simply must hire a lawyer if anything’s to be done. Wiseman’s hard look at the relations between officers and civilians is sympathetic and genuine, attuned to the limitations of the staid categories of law and order, and the humanity and chaos that spill out of them.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1969, 16mm, 81 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!