Reel Aging: Films for the Generations ties compelling documentary media projects that explore aging to on the ground efforts advancing the rights and well being of older adults. From service provision to policy advocacy, this new initiative is positioning 11 media projects to challenge prevailing cultural perceptions and construction of aging and support the needs of our elders.
Reel Aging began with a residency for media makers and a convening of over 40 nonprofits, foundations, and businesses leading the charge for health, equity and justice for older adults. Reel Aging is coordinated by Working Films with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Go to ScreeningHQ.com to host a screening, or contact Reel Aging director Molly Murphy at mmurphy [at] workingfilms.org with any questions or would like help in bringing Reel Aging to your community.
Age of Champions
Director: Christopher Rufo
Runtime: 72 minutes
Age of Champions is a feature-length documentary about a group of athletes—a 100-year-old tennis player, 86-year-old pole vaulter, octogenarian swimmers, and team of basketball grandmothers—all chasing gold at the National Senior Olympics. In a positive and uplifting way, the film addresses many of the emotional and physical challenges facing older Americans, including illness, the loss of loved ones, and the impact of aging on the mind and body. Each character in the film offers deep insight into how they overcame these obstacles and remain active and independent well into old age. They directly embody the message: “whatever your age, it’s never too late to live life to its fullest.”
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
Director: Grace Lee
Runtime: 87 minutes
Grace Lee Boggs is a 96-year-old Chinese-American activist and philosopher in Detroit who has dedicated her life to creating the next American Revolution. What Grace means by revolution and her journey through a century’s worth of social movements -- from labor to civil rights, Black Power to environmental justice -- tells an unexpected story of how one woman changed herself to change the world around her. In the wake of the Arab Spring, and Occupy Wall Street, Grace’s 70 years of experience as a movement activist provide both a long view and inspiration for a new generation of 21st century citizens to be the change they wish to see in the world.
Before You Know It
Director: PJ Raval
Runtime: 100 minutes
According to research conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, there are an estimated 2.4 million lesbian, gay or bisexual Americans over the age of 55. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) seniors are five times less likely to access social services than their heterosexual counterparts, half as likely to have health insurance coverage, twice as likely as straights to live alone, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker should they fall ill. In response to the inequities in care and resources, LGBTQ seniors have turned to each other for a solution. Some have organized to build or buy physical retirement facilities; others have worked within their cities and neighborhoods to create a network of support. The different retirement communities are as diverse as the people that make them up. Set against the backdrop of three unique retirement communities, Untitled Gay Retiree Documentary captures the experiences of several LGBTQ seniors as they navigate the adventures, challenges and surprises of their “golden years.”
Director: Christine Herbes-Sommers
Coming of Age in an Aging America is an extensive public media project aimed at creating conversation and action to productively shape America as an aging society. The project elements promoting this aim are:
- A long form nationally broadcast PBS documentary
- A fully built-out interactive and social networked website
- A multi-year public engagement effort to be launched just prior to the broadcast
- Characters, stories and revealing new research will carry the central themes of work, community and intergenerational relationships.
We explore a Georgia community re-designing itself; a large medical system remolding its work environment under the banner of ‘A Life Well-Lived’ to retain older workers and invite younger ones; a classroom of young college students as they begin to grapple with the idea of longer lives – intellectually and emotionally.
Communities for All Ages
Director: Yoruba Richen
The Genius of Marian
Directors: Anna Fitch & Banker White
Runtime: 85 minutes
The Genius of Marian follows Pam White in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Her son, the filmmaker, works with her as she attempts to write a book that tributes her mother, the renowned artist Marian Steele. As Pam’s family comes together to support her, they must also prepare for the new reality that Alzheimer’s disease brings. The Genius of Marian is both a close look at a much-feared illness and an intimate portrait of a loving family.
The Graying of AIDS – Stories from an Aging Epidemic
Director: Katja Heinemann
The Graying of AIDS – Stories from an Aging Epidemic is a multi-media, multi-platform documentary project and integrated educational campaign that draws attention to a startling fact: By 2015, half of all Americans living with HIV will be over the age of fifty. A demographically and geographically diverse series of video portraits features “long-term survivors” and newly-infected adults aged 50-77 who navigate physical and emotional highs and lows as they live, love, and create, often exhibiting extraordinary strength and resilience in the process. Situated in the larger contexts of both aging and AIDS in the US, the project challenges our collective assumptions about aging sexuality, substance use, and what it means to age with HIV, and asks: Who is at risk for or living with HIV/AIDS? Why? How are we currently addressing their needs? What needs to change?
Director: Sari Gilman
Runtime: 40 minutes
With Kings Point, director Sari Gilman tells the stories of five seniors living in a typical American retirement resort—men and women who came to Florida decades ago with their spouses by their sides and their health intact, and now find themselves grappling with love, loss and the desire for human connection. A bittersweet look at our national obsession with self-reliance, Kings Point explores the dynamic tension between living and aging—between our desire for independence and our need for community—and underscores our powerful ambivalence toward growing old.
Old People Driving
Director: Shaleece Haas
Runtime: 24 minutes
In the tender and surprising documentary short, Old People Driving, we climb into the passenger seat alongside Milton (age 96) and Herbert (age 99) as they confront a grim milestone: the end of their driving years. Through their stories, and a review of the traffic safety research, we learn what’s at stake for graying drivers. And we discover the heartbreaking truth about a generation that came of age with the car: that they, too, will eventually sputter to a stop.
Parenting 102: The Sandwiched Generation Speaks Out
Director: Mary Katzke
Parenting 102 is the candid and compelling story of 4 baby boomers and their ethnically diverse families as they face the aging and imminent demise of a parent. The filming, while faced with an urgent timeframe due to the fragility of the elderly and (likely) very ill parent, will ensure that a rich, varied story is told from the perspectives of the parent, the adult child, and the extended family as they live through the months, weeks, and days of making decisions about life and living...death and dying. Parenting 102 will follow the primary caregivers from the time they realize their parent is unable to care for themselves without assistance, through the secondary realization that the separate life they’ve created - their career and family home - is at risk as a result of their parent’s need, then the emotional commitment to caring for their aging parent, their first steps to creating that new reality for themselves and their family, and finally letting go of the last bit of rope holding them to their former, private self.
Prison Terminal: the Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Director/Producer: Edgar A. Barens⁞
Prison Terminal is a moving cinema verité documentary that breaks through the walls of one of America’s oldest maximum security prisons to tell the story of the final months in the life of a terminally ill prisoner and the hospice volunteers, they themselves prisoners, who care for him. The film draws from footage shot over a six-month period behind the walls of the Iowa State Penitentiary and provides a fascinating and often poignant account of how the hospice experience can profoundly touch even the forsaken lives of the incarcerated
The central idea behind Reel Aging is that organizers and advocates need numerous media tools to enliven their efforts for progressive change: poignant first-person feature-length narratives, concise shorts highlighting human struggles and triumphs, and "buzz" on multiple platforms – including social media networks. Authentic change and real transformation of the status quo requires many types of stories that can catalyze action by audiences, constituents and those entrusted with decision-making.
Reel Aging transforms competition into collaboration between these 11 teams of selected social issue documentary and media makers. Working Films is aggregating and capturing the collective energy of the participating media makers and the organizations to lead an integrated, multi-tier campaign that will:
• Strengthen the voice of older adults and more actively involve them in advocating on their own and others behalf,
• Extend and protect the rights of older adults to health and economic security through policy change, and
• Sustain the capacity of organizations focused on aging issues to respond to future challenges.