Michael Apted's 49 Up, Seattle International Film Festival

Director Michael Apted’s 49 up

Starting with the British television documentary Seven Up, fourteen children from different walks of life were brought together, and interviewed about their future goals and notions about their place in society. This spawned the concept of revisiting the group every seven years on their own voluntary basis, to get a sort of “state of my life” interview. The result is a body of work that transcends the standard documentary, or any concept of reality programming that we’ve come to know. The pool parties, the beachside housing, challenges and elimination ceremonies, all of the normal devices used to stir the pot on reality television are unneccessary. Instead there’s race, gender, and class structure, combined with aging, parenting, and the fact that your life is being portioned out in seven year fragments for public consumption and judgement.

In this edition, we catch up with the subjects as many now have grandchildren, some have remarried, and all are looking towards the final stretches of their careers. Tony, the teenage horse jockey turned cab driver, has a particulary funny segment as you see a few of his small acting gigs, and he gives a tour of his new summer house in Spain. Symon, who as a boy said “I had a dream that the world was falling on top of me”, has made his way from very meager and sad begginings to his second marriage, raising many children, and now takes on foster children who come from the same dire circumstances as he once did. Of course we catch up with two of “the three little shits” as I like to call them, from blue blooded families, who at seven years old had their lives spelled out for them . (They knew, to the letter, exactly which prep schools and universities they would attend.) In one of the most introspective moments, there’s Sue, one of the three east end girls pictured above, taking director Michael Apted to task for his interpretations of her sucess, or lack theof.

Overall this is one of the more “feel good” installments, as those involved have risen above many health issues, divorce, and other personal demons that have shed a light of uncertainty on their prospects in the past.49 Up, as with the previous installments, is easily accessible to everyone, featuring flashbacks to previous segments. Even without prior knowledge of the series, you will not walk out feeling as if you’ve missed the point. Regardless, all six of the previous installments are now available on DVD.

More info:
The Seven Up series – Wikipedia
49 Up – SIFF

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