The Elders

The Elders

Directed by: Nathaniel Hansen
78 minutes

World Premiere

An aging engineer reminisces about designing a rocket-catapult ejection seat, then breaks down in tears when asked about his marriage. A Japanese American recounts how getting sent to an internment camp caused her to reshuffle her dreams. And memories of falling in love—and getting jilted—reverberate down the decades.

The senior citizens in this documentary are decidedly opinionated, and here they’re given an opportunity to reflect on loss, survival, and small but significant sources of joy. They share what they miss (sex and mobility) and what they resent (teenage vandalism and a culture that tends to throw stories away unheard). And they talk their way to the core of what they’ve learned: that life is more an unraveling than a tidy narrative.

A poet. A fiddle player. A Marine. A teacher. “We all have a history of some kind,” says the 94-year-old Louise. “Everybody not only has a story, everybody is a story.” And even the most straightforward lessons don’t unfold as planned. As Marjorie, also in her 90s, puts it, “Teach your children to love. Simple enough. It’s not easy.”

Director Nathaniel Hansen captures these seniors’ stories, pet peeves, and spirits, which are undimmed by time. THE ELDERS shines a light on memories that are at risk of fading out, but deserve illumination.

—Anya Weber