The depiction of older people and aging in movies and television is often fraught with negative stereotypes.
Calgarian Mitzi Murray wanted to find a way to explore these representations with rich and varied stories, showing that aging is not to be feared, but something to embrace and celebrate.
Murray was spurred on to create the THIRD ACTion Film Festival after selling assisted living in seniors’ homes and seeing firsthand how avoiding talking about aging affects people across the age spectrum.
“There is a negative impact on individuals and families who are afraid of growing old because of the lovely world of film and mass media, and certainly the world of marketing, predominantly portraying older adults in a negative light. And this has been going on for decades,” says Murray.
The reaction from the city’s seniors and other age groups has been overwhelmingly positive, and the festival is now celebrating its fifth year.
The festival’s name refers to the “third act” of life – the last three decades. Murray, executive director of the growing festival, wanted an event that would help drive positive age-old cultural change and empower people to imagine their best third act, while educating and entertaining.
“We want to show people the possibilities of aging and really make them see people like them on screen because they are underrepresented.”
Murray attended the Cannes Film Festival online last year and notes that out of 2,000 films, only 3% had an older adult in the lead role.
The tide is slowly turning, notes Murray, with streaming services starting to portray baby boomers more realistically on shows like Grace and Frankie and The Kominsky Method.
During COVID-19, the festival has taken a new step, moving online and growing its community through monthly screenings and simulcasts with hosts, guest speakers, and online discussions.
Film submissions come from all over the world for the three-day festival, which takes place the last weekend of Alberta Seniors Week, which is June 6-12 this year.
The festival works with the Brenda Strafford Center on Aging to find subject matter experts to partner with filmmakers to discuss the accuracy of content in screenings.
There were 170 entries for this year’s festival, from 90-second shorts to feature films, with subjects ranging from positivity of age, work, housing and sexuality to heavier topics such as aging, death and grief.
Since launching in 2018, the festival has hired a lead programmer, Toby Taylor, to fulfill the goals of the event’s social and artistic mandates and market the festival to film markets in countries around the world.
This year’s lineup also features five Canadian films, including one made in our own backyard.
Murray says he hopes people will think of the third act as similar to the first.
“You dream of growing up and going to university and getting married… all those stages of life. You take steps to bring them to fruition. We should be doing this in the third act of life. You can recreate yourself in your last act, and many seniors do.”
The THIRD ACTION Film Festival takes place from June 10th to 12th, with in-person screenings at the Central Library being streamed online. Both audiences can interact with “questionnaire” speakers and volunteers.
For more information and to purchase tickets for in-person or online attendance, visit thirdactionfilmfest.ca.
Four Featured Films
There are 36 films from countries like Canada, Australia, France, Malaysia, Austria, Iran, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, India and many more this year.
Film genres include documentary, drama, animation, music and dance.
Here is a snapshot of four films that will be featured:
- The Secondary Highway by Calgary photographer Robert Scott is a journey of history, memories and self-discovery. Scott tracks down descendants of abandoned houses, talking to elders about their stories.
- from New Zealand, daddy’s girl is the story of a Maori daughter forced to face a painful truth in accepting her father’s dementia.
- years added is a short American documentary about an elderly man’s love and devotion to his horses, and the joy and optimism they bring to him.
- Maude, an 18-minute UK drama, portrays a retired housewife who wins a cruise for two. Her hope of escaping her stale marriage is placed on Henry, her local shopkeeper.
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division.