Friday, January 25, 2013

In Spite of it All, Hope Springs Eternal in ‘56 UP’

IT is difficult to walk away from the extraordinary “56 UP” not feeling optimistic.

Indeed, optimism about the future is the current that flows through the latest installment of Michael Apted’s “The UP Series” of documentaries. The film continues its roll out across North America, opening today in several cites, including Los Angeles, Hartford, CT and Montpelier, VT.

The filmmaker has been interviewing most of the subjects in “56 UP” every seven years since they were bright-eyed 7 year olds in 1964, to see where they are, what they are thinking, where they are going, what they are doing. (See video above.)

“The UP Series” began as “Seven Up,” an experimental series from Granada TV. Taking the Jesuit maxim: “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man” as a starting point MA, then a researcher, interviewed English 7 year olds from various economic backgrounds about their lives and dreams. The idea was to ascertain how deeply ingrained the class system was in Great Britain. MA would go onto interview as many as his subjects as would participate in seven-year intervals.

He has said these very different individuals are like his family, not a surprising notion considering how long he has been undertaking this project.

“Like a family, we’ve had our good times, our disagreements, but now, all but one of the participants are back for “56 UP,” the director said in press notes. “I never know how each new film will turn out, except that it’ll be quite different from the last. 21 UP was full of hope, 28 was about children and responsibility, 35 was concerned with mortality when some were losing parents, and 49 had a sense of disappointment with lives maybe not fully achieved.”

Peter, center, is part of a band that includes his wife, left, and a colleague. Photo from First Run Features.

At 56, all are doing fine – meaning their heads are in a good place – their various challenges notwithstanding. The current interviews, which is the norm, are interspersed with archival footage from past interviews. It’s very illuminating and insightful. Of course, life has treated some better than others. None, however, has given up on life. With only one or two exceptions, all improved their station in life, if only marginally.

Incredibly, no one appears to be unhappy. This should be an inspiration for us all.

Visit to learn more about “56 UP,” including playdates.

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