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In Jackson Heights 

Wednesday, Dec 16 2015
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Few directors, let alone documentarians, can let a movie unspool at three hours or more without it seeming like self-indulgence or a lack of discipline. Frederick Wiseman has long been the exception, crafting multi-hour documentaries that always justify their length. But more than most any other director of any genre, Wiseman is compassionate, which is on full display in his latest, the 190-minute  In Jackson Heights. It's set in seemingly every corner of the Queens neighborhood of the title, the closest thing to true melting pot in America, with a staggering array of immigrants speaking 167 different languages. Among the recurring themes is the tension between maintaining the traditions of one's home country and assimilating into the American way of life, inasmuch as such a thing can be clearly defined. Wiseman is not without a point of view — it's clear he's on the side of those trying to keep the neighborhood from falling prey to the gentrifying forces of the "Business Improvement District" — but he lets the people speak for themselves, and the time he gives to the struggles of the local transgender women is especially remarkable, considering the film was directed by an 85-year-old straight man.  In Jackson Heights  is a work by that rarest of creatures: someone with an unbridled love for humanity.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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