Directed by Frederick Wiseman
US 1975, 16mm, b/w, 167 min
The desperate melting pot of New York's Waverly Welfare Center simmers and boils over as workers and applicants attempt to decipher the riddles of convoluted bureaucracy and extricate the truth from masses of tangled, tragic tales. The frustration is palpable on both sides of the counter as socio-psychological complexities are forced into numbers, paperwork and regulations. Amid the demoralizing process of earning eligibility by proof of destitution, racial and class tensions ferment, neuroses flourish, and exasperating Kafkaesque scenarios give way to poetic monologues railing against Catch 22 absurdity. Every so often, the camera returns to the familiar and new faces eternally cycling through the torpid purgatory of the Welfare waiting room.