Documentary Films on Aging

The Graying of AIDS in not just a documentary project about HIV/AIDS, but about aging with HIV/AIDS. As it turns out, ours is one of many documentary projects in recent years that are taking a closer look at various aspects of aging in America today.

From documentary shorts to feature-length films, from traditional film or video to multimedia/multiplatform projects, the diversity of materials out there is impressive and exciting. We couldn’t help but notice how many of these projects are films that deal with love, sexuality, sexual identity, and older adults’ relationships with their bodies in a refreshingly frank and open way. We are hopeful that this wave of creative work reflects the beginning of a larger cultural shift to a more nuanced, inclusive, and respectful take on how peoples’ lives and experiences evolve over time, and we are thrilled to be a part of that.

Here are some of the recent documentary films that have captured our attention:


Aging in America – The Years Ahead

by Julie Winokur and Ed Kashi (57 min)

Visit the website for this feature length documentary, book & traveling exhibition, and view additional multimedia excerpts on MSNBC.com. The husband and wife filmmaker team explore “what is a good old age” as they travel across America documenting stories of love, creativity and fulfillment, as well as those of poverty, loneliness, and the care-giving that can make a difference.


Aquadettes

by Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari (11 min)

A short documentary and portrait of Margo Bouer, who at seventy five has been a dedicated synchronized swimmer for over fifteen years, while also struggling with a debilitating illness. A film by multimedia wizards California Is A Place – you’ll also want to check out their stunning still photography series on the Aquadettes.


Edie And Thea – A Very Long Engagement

by Susan Muska and Gréta Ólafsdottir (61 min)

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer met and fell in love in the closeted 1960s; after having been engaged for over 40 years they were finally able to marry, in Canada, at the ages of 77 and 75. The film documents the story of a “forbidden love” and life-long commitment, a couple’s joys and their challenges when one partner’s health begins to fail. Their love story has an impact beyond the personal: read more about LGBT marriage discrimination and the federal law suit inspired by Edie & Thea that challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.


Gen Silent

by Stu Maddox (70 min)

Six LGBT seniors are faced with wrenching decisions as they enter the long term care system and consider having to go “back into the closet.” Part of a generation that fought for gay civil rights, many LGBT older Americans are now forced to hide their sexuality, their history and their loved ones as they depend on sometimes hostile and discriminatory institutional settings during their final years of life. The documentary draws attention to the people who are working to create a different kind of care-giving environment, one where LGBT elders can feel safe, happy, and respected for who they are and the lives they have lived.


I Know A Woman Like That

by Elaine Madsen (103 min)

A generation of women in their seventies and beyond is actively engaged in pursuing their artistic and creative endeavors at an age where others might expect them to slow down. Featuring Maxine Hong Kingston, Lauren Hutton, Eartha Kitt, Rita Moreno and Gloria Steinem, along with a 95 year-old who water skis competitively, a septuagenarian who decided to be the first black woman at the North Pole, together with other movers and shakers – artists,  politicians, business women and grandmothers enjoying life.


The Invisible Years

by Gideon Boaz (25 min)

This documentary short film tells the stories of “six older gay men as they negotiate the challenges of aging in a culture that adores youth and everything which it represents.” The characters in the film honestly and frankly discuss “their desires, losses, achievements and beliefs” in straightforward studio monologues. Created as a masters thesis project for the MFA film studies program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Invisible Years features interviews with Graying of AIDS participant Robert Brewster.


Still Doing It
– The Intimate Lives of Women Over 65

a documentary by Deirdre Fishel (54 min)

A documentary film and a book, Still Doing It explores the lives of older women through the prism of their sexuality. “Partnered, single, straight, gay, black and white, nine extraordinary women, 67-87, express with startling honesty and humor how they feel about themselves, sex and love in later life and the poignant realities of aging.” Find more details about the individual characters & story lines here.

 

In closing, a reflection by photojournalist Ed Kashi on his long term work on Aging in America:

During that long and incredible journey of documentation and discovery, I became a better human being. I came to see firsthand what America was doing to so many of our elders, warehousing them in sad and less than caring facilities. It was this realization that led my wife and I to move our family to New Jersey to take care of my father-in-law. Looking back on this evolution, it’s powerful to consider the impact of journalism and art on not only the viewer but also the creator. My path into the world of aging is now 16 years old and I consider myself a richer, better person for all I’ve witnessed, learned and applied in my life, from my creative work. I look at my life, my society and the meaning of human existence on a completely different level now, thanks to my artistic and journalistic exploration of the world of aging.

Aging impacts every aspect of our lives in ways we may not fully realize. Young, old, or somewhere in between, whether as documentarians, social service and health care providers, or educators, the work we do about aging and for those who are aging is also, in many ways, about and for us.


And, as a bonus feature… not a doc, but a feature film about falling in love:

Cloud Nine (Wolke Neun)
by Andreas Dresen, starring Ursula Werner, Horst Rehberg and Horst Westphal  (98 min)