Television: A Sunny, Nightmare Vision

CANAL ZONE. PBS, Oct. 7

For the past decade, Frederick Wiseman has been examining American institutions in a series of documentaries (High School, Welfare) that are both provocative political statements and innovative works of film. In Canal Zone, one of his best efforts, the director travels to an American realm that is far removed from most of our lives. The results are unexpectedly harrowing. In the sunny landscape of a distant Army enclave in Panama, Wiseman finds a nightmare vision of America itself.

The film, shot in 1976, is not specifically concerned with the treaty that Jimmy Carter is now selling to Congress....

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