There are children’s film festivals, LGBT film festivals, film fests for surfers and snowboarders, festivals featuring French and African and South Asian film — and thanks to one woman in the San Francisco area, there’s a film festival dedicated to the topic of aging.
Launched in 2011, the 3-day Legacy Film Festival on Aging is the only U.S. fest that focuses on films that celebrate what an adventure aging is, including its challenges and triumphs. The festival screened Sue Bourne’s film “The Fabulous Fashionistas” in 2014 and in 2015, Steven Loring’s film about senior speed daters, “The Age of Love.”
Opening September 16 and running through September 18 at San Francisco’s New People Cinema, the 2016 Legacy Film Festival will screen 15 documentaries and narrative films — including entries from Japan, Holland, France, Spain, Belgium, and New Zealand — that foster a deeper understanding of aging and older adulthood. Many of the post-screening audience discussions will feature the filmmakers and their subjects.
The festival is still small, but interest is growing, festival executive director Sheila Malkind says —”Just when I started thinking, “This isn’t going to work….” Maybe it’s a reflection of the broadening conversation about age and ageism taking place in the U.S. And perhaps, if the festival keeps growing, it might even help convince the industry that there’s a market for films about older people — though that’s not currently what Legacy is aiming for.
According to Malkind, the festival’s goal hasn’t changed since she helped launch Legacy five years ago: to educate, entertain and inspire intergenerational audiences about the issues around aging. “We find the intergenerational aspect is really important for both the older and younger people. They see us as mentors and we see them as refreshing, with a good attitude toward aging and older people. That’s something we want to focus on even more.”
Finding films that defy ageist stereotypes is one of her challenges, Malkind says. While the festival website does post an annual call for entries, the submissions are hardy flying in. Instead, staff spend a good part of the year searching for films. “There’s a limit to how many films about older people there are compared to movies about young people,” Malkind says. And to date, Legacy has not received any submissions of films created by seniors, though in 2015 it did screen “Old?!” by Katherine Roselli, a physical therapist–turned–-senior filmmaker who’s been featured on this site.
The festival hopes to become more international and add a traveling component, but for now, it has neither the personnel nor the funding. “None of us get salaries, and last year was the first year that we broke even,” Malkind says.
“We hope we can show people that aging can be meaningful, and that they can find meaning and make meaning for themselves. That’s really what I do this for,” the 78-year-old told us as she prepared for opening night. “When older people, who might be depressed or isolated in their homes for various reasons, get out and come to the festival, they feel so much more uplifted and inspired. It makes the hard work of putting on the Festival all worthwhile.”
Look out for these films that Malkind says might make the jump from the Legacy festival to your local big (or in some cases small) screen in the coming year:
Yaniv Rokah, USA, 2014. 75 mins.
Forced onto the streets in her 50’s, Mimi found her home in an LA laundromat. For the next 20 years, thanks to its generous owner, she continued to live there. With her philosophy, “The past is the past,” Mimi makes a variety of friends — from the regular laundromat clientele to Hollywood celebrities. Now 90, Mimi reminds us to never give up and never give in.
“Alice Cares (Ik ben Alice)”
Sander Burger, Netherlands, 2015. 80 mins.
Can technology be combined with human care to support seniors living independently? This fascinating documentary about a Dutch pilot program that’s testing the use of an emotionally intelligent “care-bot” named Alice to ward off isolation focuses on three older women and explores whether a robot can really build “human” relationships. In Dutch with English subtitles.
“A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone”
Mo Morris, USA, 2015. 57 mins.
Edythe Boone is a 78-year-old African-American artist and social justice muralist who teaches middle-schoolers and seniors in the Bay area. This film is a joy-filled and heart-rendering story about community, art and people becoming agents of change.
“A Letter from Fred”
Oceanna Colgan, USA, 2013. 15 mins.
When an Illinois music studio ran a songwriting contest in the local community, a 96-year-old named Fred who had recently lost his lifelong partner, Lorraine, decided to enter. The contest asked for YouTube videos of the song entries. Fred sent in a manila envelope. This heartwarming film tells the story of how a music studio saw the potential in Fred’s song to his “Sweet Lorraine,” and of the public’s emotional reaction.
(The film being screened is a longer version of this 2013 cut.)
Bryn Evans, New Zealand, 2015
This documentary follows the journey of a group of New Zealand seniors age 65 to 93 as, under the watchful eye of a dance instructor, they train to compete in the World Hip-Hop Championships in Las Vegas. The film explores their lives and motivations, and the support they receive from their young hip-hop dance competitors.
- Click here to read about the other films and here to order tickets online.
- Click here to follow the Legacy Film Festival on Aging on Facebook and here to follow on Twitter.