Why did you choose to focus on daily life at the Metropolitan Hospital in New York?
As part of a series on institutions, I wanted to make a film on the emergency services and the outpatient treatment in a major city. I chose the Metropolitan Hospital in New York because back then it was the only public hospital covering a catchment area stretching from Times Square to 125th Street, from East to West Manhattan.
What purpose did you have in mind when you began to film Hospital?
The doctors and nurses in this hospital treat as many as 500,000 cases per year. What interested me was to capture the diversity of physical and mental health problems they had to deal with, as well as the nature of the treatments. My aim was to film them in their daily work. The entire staff loved the film.
How did the shooting go?
We spent four weeks filming to get enough sequences to edit a film that addressed the issues governing the relationships between the doctors, nurses, patients and families. Luckily, there were no technical hitches. No one objected to being filmed, despite the seriousness of some of the health problems which forced the patients to seek hospital care.
What does the film say about the quality of healthcare at the time in the States?
I knew nothing about the situation in the other hospitals in New York or elsewhere in the country, so it's impossible to generalise about an issue so vast and complex. The documentary focused only on one hospital in one city.
Hospital est projeté dans le cadre d'un hommage croisé à Raymond Depardon et Frederick Wiseman.
Hospital is being shown as part of a tribute to Raymond Depardon and Frederick Wiseman.
Presented by Zipporah Films and Blaq Out in partnership with Doc & Film et UniversCiné, a restoration of Hospital in 35 mm copy by the Library of Congress Audiovisual Conservation Center, based on original negatives from the Zipporah Films collection.
Frederick Wiseman will attend the Festival Cannes and will be awarded the Prix Consécration by radio station France Culture.