Wednesday, February 03, 2010


One of the greatest documentary films - or, rather, series of documentary films - is the "7 up" collection. Director Michael Apted has, since the 1960's, revisited the same group of British children every seven years, from the age of seven onward. Each visit results in new documentary - the subjects will be in their 50's in the next film. They came from across the ethnic and economic (class) strata, and were meant to represent a cross section of British society.

The film was based on the Jesuit saying that goes something like: "Give me a child until the ago of seven, and I will give you the man." Through the years, we've had the opportunity to see these individuals search for identity and develop as human beings. We've seen them evolve and change, stumble and recover - and, in many cases, achieve successful lives despite themselves. As time goes on, we've also seen that they are, indeed, who they were at seven. One individual that comes to mind once seemed to have departed from the bright-eyed little boy he was to a tragic homeless figure as an adult. His life seemed destined for failure. Seven years later, however, he'd become a part of the community - even a local political leader. He suddenly seemed to fit with his long-ago self.

In England, the 7-Up films have been so popular that some of the participants have pulled out of the documentary, tired of being endlessly scrutinized not only by the filmmaker, but by the glare of publicity. In this case, it's hard to measure the impact the documentary has had on its participants. Depending on the person and situation, it's very concept may open doors for some of the subjects, and close it for others. I have to wonder if the world attention, even every seven years, has impacted the decisions and relations these people have had throughout their lives.

Regardless, the film is a real tribute to the human sprit - it puts on display the roller coaster we all ride throughout our lives - the ups and downs that make us who we are. Like a roller coaster, it can sometimes be a wild ride, but we're okay if we stay on track!

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