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Do not hurt their dignity

On November 15, a roundtable on the topic of aging and its depiction in movies and on TV took place as part of the International Film Festival “Breaking down Barriers.” 

Не унижая достоинства

The Festival program had several movies on the topic of the roundtable: a Spanish animated movie “Wrinkles” (“Arrugas”) by Ignacio Ferreras, “An Attic Full of Puppets” by the British director Richard Butchins, and movies by Polish filmmakers – “Decrescendo” by Marta Minorowicz and “Deep Love” by Jan Matuszynski.

Spanish scriptwriter and producer Angel de la Cruz explained that the animated movie “Wrinkles” was based on a series of comics about old people, created by his friend’s father. The authors visit special social centers, where senior citizens live, and learn how those centres work, treat, and help elderly people to live a respectable life.

“Wrinkles” is an animated movie for adults, and it was initially intended for viewers from 20 to 50 years old to show those who are not yet old the issues their relatives faced when they grew older. However, later the authors started showing the movie in universities and schools, to teenagers and young people, aiming to change their attitudes to their grandparents, who often irritate the youth. “We wanted to show young people why old people are the way they are, to encourage them not to get mad and not to treat them ill,” said Angel de la Cruz, “It turns out, the movie really can influence young people, change their attitudes, make them think. Many young viewers also recommended it to their friends.

Tomasz Potaczek, a psychologist from a caring center for the elderly, who became the protagonist of the Polish movie “Decrescendo,” explained that the authors tried not only to show the facility and the people locked in there, their goal was to expose their relationships: between old people and the young doctor, between each other.

During the discussion, Yury Kuznetsov, a member of the Steering Committee, drew the audience attention how accurately and delicately the authors portrayed the old people, emphasizing all that needed to be emphasized and not exaggerating the unneeded. Tomasz Potaczek said that the shooting took a year, 50 hours of footage, while the movie itself lasts only for 25 minutes. At first, the old people felt uncomfortable in front of the camera, and it took them quite some time to start acting naturally and to stop noticing it. “The shooting itself had a positive effect,” said Tomasz, “The old people felt needed once again, they felt they were important and were sort of movie stars.”

Deep Love” tells a story of Janusz Kazimierz, an experienced diver and diving instructor, who experienced two strokes and craniotomy at the age of 54. When the movie’s director Jan Matuszynski learn that the diver, who had difficulty talking and walking, wanted to dive again, he decided to make a movie about it. “At that moment no one knew how it would end,” said another film character Joanna, She understood it was impossible to persuade him to give up his dream. “But I also wanted him to stay with me,” she smiled, “And we wanted to tell that a surgery and illness do not mean the end of one’s life; the most important thing is not to make decisions for others, to tell them what they can and cannot do.”

During the discussion, Varvara Yutereva from the Charitable Foundation “Starost v Radost” (“Happy Age”) talked about the Foundation and noted, that the movies were not filmed in Russia, and Russian realities and homes for the elderly are far from even starting to tackle the issues. “Here a clean sheet and an opportunity to go for a walk become a challenge,” she commented.

“How can one talk about our realities in a movie without dishonoring our old people?” Varvara asked.

Maria Perfilyeva, the roundtable facilitator and Perspektiva’s staff member, drew the participants’ attention to the issue: “The topic is hard to deal with on film, but it needs to be done, it should be done accurately and delicately, asking challenging questions, but not hurting people, who found themselves in those circumstances. It is clear that we should not leave the things as they are, those institutions cannot remain isolated.”


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