High School (1968 Film)

High School is a 1968 American documentary film directed by Frederick Wiseman, which follows the typical day of a group of students at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was one of the first direct cinema (or cinéma vérité) documentaries. It was shot over five weeks in March and April 1968. The film was banned from being shown in Philadelphia for a number of years due to the way it depicted high schoolers as being oppressed. Few Northeast students, faculty or administrators actually saw the film, so this perception was largely based on hear-say, newspaper editorials and anger over not being able to see the film.

The film was released in October 1968 by Wiseman's distribution company Zipporah Films. It was well received when the principal and the staff in the board of education saw it in December 1968. They thought the film was a mostly accurate picture of the school. However, Northeast's principal, Mabel Haller, announced in Philadelphia that she ought to have some rights to censorship over the film, since parts of the film were taken out of context. For example, one scene shows an English Literature class listening to records while students in the back row are sleeping. In fact, the desks in classroom were pushed together to make room for the film crew and the teacher, Mrs. London, was told not to try to lecture that day. As a result of similar controversies and misrepresentations, the film hasn’t yet been screened in Philadelphia. However, like most of Wiseman's films, High School has been aired on PBS Television. Wiseman distributes his own films (DVDs and 16mm prints) through Zipporah Films, which rents them to high schools, colleges, and libraries on a five-year long-term lease. The film was selected in 1991 for preservation in the National Film Registry.