Ashlander Kathy Roselli has produced and directed a film every year since 2012 — and her most recent one, “OLD?!” is a series of personal and revealing interviews about how local people of every age (mainly older folks) feel about this whole life-changing process of getting long in the tooth.
It’s a moving, 55-minute documentary that will show at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, at Ashland Senior Center, 1699 Homes Ave. That screening is free and public.
The film will also be shown at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at Smullin Center, Rogue Regional Medical Center. Admission to that fundraising showing is $10. DVDs of the film will also be on sale for $10.
The movie has been shown in film festivals in Portland, Santa Cruz, San Antonio and other cities. It has been accepted in the Legacy Film Festival on Aging in San Francisco.
The movie is not just focused on elders but also traces the thoughts of Rogue Valley folk through their teens, 20s, 30s and beyond, as they realize the growing awareness that this adventure does not go on forever — hopefully with lots of fun, travel and adventure, but always winding up, as 9-year-old Abbie said, “that you are wrinkled and walk funny.”
Far from being a tedious sociological how-to, the film is a well-edited piece of art that pops us in and out of the stream of thoughts that are so familiar to each of us, as we move along the track of aging, through the beautiful years of love, marriage, children and realized dreams — on to the experience that nothing can prepare you for — aging and death.
Roselli tries to grab the thoughts and words of preschoolers, but it’s not till we get to age 9 or so that people begin to grasp that life is a trajectory no one can change, only accept.
“Real revenge is making something of yourself,” says Sabrina, 12 (no last names are used). Tuscan, 17, explores a long-term vision, about the farmhouse his girlfriend wants to buy, so she can get old and be a grandma there, while he plants and harvests.
In the film, Hudson, 19, observes that it all comes down to the fact that everyone at high school graduation is looking for security, either financially or in some kind of happiness.
Sarah, 19, says she “feels old in a way. The years went by very fast. I’ve done so many things and I hope aging doesn’t inhibit me.”
Jean, 84, says she doesn’t think her 65-year marriage is unusual and she hopes, with Dean, her 87-year-old husband, that they can just “carry on.”
Brandon, 25, notes, “It truly is a metamorphosis, a whole new capacity for compassion and understanding I’ve found without a doubt, in my heart. The less I push and force, the more my path becomes the path of least resistance. When I’m quiet enough to see where I’m going, I see I’m already here, where I need to be, always.”
Heather, 29, says the 30s are the new 20s and, with no kids and good income, it’s “going to be awesome.” As a nurse, she sees people in their 30s whose bodies are already “worn out and sick. They don’t do anything they love.” But some in their 70s and 80s are “vibrant, dancing, don’t seem old.”
Peter, 41, has noticed elders with hair in nose and ears and now sees it in himself, noting “It doesn’t bother me so much. I’m alone and didn’t have children, but now it’s starting to worry me.”
Shannon, 41, got carded for a beer and wanted to shake the hand of the server.
Local musician-composer Gene notes the physical changes of age, but says he’s not at all interested in looking young and following the idea that old is bad and young is good. “We’re all going to die. I make fun of it … We’re all circling the drain … headed for the soil.” He says he doesn’t agree with the Dylan Thomas poem that says, “Do not go gently,” but feels we should acknowledge the passing quality of everything, "like water moving around stones in the creek."
One of the more touching stories is told by Marilyn, 89, a recent widow. She started dreaming of Joe, who was 23 and in love with her during World War II, when he was a bomber pilot. She hadn’t thought of him in years, but “I couldn’t get him out of my mind.” Out of nowhere, she learned his wife just died. She wrote him. One day, his daughter called and said he’d like to talk to her.
“It was the first time we talked in 70 years,” she says. “Here was that wonderful voice.” He asked her to come to Massachusetts. She did. “It was wonderful, wonderful.” They spent some months together, then, suddenly, he had a heart attack and died in her arms. “He was gone. I knew it. I can’t think about it,” she said, weeping. “I think about what we did have.”
Roselli, 69, is a retired pediatric nurse who got into filmmaking in classes at College of the Siskiyous. She interviewed 75 local people for the film.
“I realized I’m in the last third of my life and want to get perspective on getting older, so instead of interviewing the experts, I wanted to interview people who are actually getting older. I started thinking about the word “old,” a word we hear all our lives. So I interviewed people at all ages of life and what it means to them.”
Our society doesn’t think about what aging really means, but, she adds, “This film offers all kinds of experiential wisdom that people can apply to their lives. There’s something for everyone. The film has a lot of staying power and people watch it over and over to get it.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.