An enlightening documentary from Sébastien Lifshitz, exploring the lives of 11 gay men and women over the age of 70.
Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.
- Director Sébastien Lifshitz
- Producer Bruno Nahon
- France 2012
- 115 mins
- Sales Doc & Film International
With a title referring to the conspicuous absence of older gay and lesbian representations in popular culture, this enlightening documentary explores the lives of eleven gay men and women over the age of 70. United only by their homosexuality, every one of them has a very different tale to tell. From rousing ruminations on coming out and involvements with the gay rights and women’s movements, to the amusing anecdotes of a goatherd’s youthful bisexual exploits, each of the interviewees are hugely engaging and captivating in their sincerity. If director Sébastien Lifshitz is responding to the dearth of mature gay portrayals, he goes some way to redress the balance with the time he devotes to each of his subjects. Complemented by the graceful photography and evocative visuals, his measured approach allows the viewer to build genuine relationships and affection for these pioneers as they paint vivid portraits of their lives.
The film has several origins. One of them involves photography. I’ve been collecting amateur photographs for a number of years, and one day I happened to come across a photo album of two elderly women, very bourgeois, very ‘old France’. And yet, something about the images made me think they might be a lesbian couple. I bought the album, and on closer inspection, my hunch turned out to be right. After that, I found many other photographs of openly homosexual men and women from various time periods. What surprised me most was the freedom with which these people were expressing their desires during times when society was far less tolerant. I started wondering whether homosexuals from these generations had led happier lives than history would have us believe. I wanted to look back over the past 60 years, talk to homosexuals born between the wars and ask them what life had been like for them. In parallel, another idea emerged. I didn’t want the film to focus uniquely on the past, quite the contrary. I also wanted to take a look at the lives of older homosexuals today, to film them in the present, to see what it’s like to love and to age for homosexuals over 70. [...] I spent two years seeking men and women over 70 who would be willing to tell me about their lives in front of the camera. I wanted unknown people from a mixture of social backgrounds and regions, to bring as much diversity as possible to the film. The trick was finding people who were capable of bringing their stories to life, creating a ‘narrative monologue’. During all those months of preparation I met so many incredible people. The film represents only part of my research. I had to narrow it down or the film would’ve been six hours long. [...] I wanted to trace the evolution of French society from the post-war years to the present through the angle of homosexuals’ lives. Minorities provide a very interesting angle through which to examine the values of an era. How they are accepted or rejected reveals much about the morals and levels of tolerance in the overall population. These men and women tell us what it was like to be different and evoke the struggles they had to lead in order to raise the collective consciousness. The gay rights movement, along with the women’s rights movement, have gone a long way toward advancing society. We owe them a lot. Based on their age, the participants in the film were particularly active, some of them even militant, during the sixties and seventies. [...] The media has no interest in old people, and that goes double for old homos. The gay press focuses almost entirely on people in their thirties, as if after that, we all get sent to the junkyard. And yet, everyone ages. I find the invisibility of the elderly incredibly unhealthy, it only serves to heighten our fear of death and ageing. Ageing homosexuals themselves seem to accept this fate by withdrawing from their social lives. The word ‘invisible’ thus seems to me particularly accurate in describing these men and women who are absent from view.
Born in Paris in 1968, he studied History of Art at the École de Louvre and Sorbonne University, from where he graduated in 1993. He has constructed an impressive filmography of predominantly gay-themed narrative and documentary movies, and has taught at France’s premier film school, La Femis.
1995 Claire Denis: la vagabonde [doc]
1996 Il faut que je l’aime [s]
1997 Les Corps ouverts (Open Bodies)
2000 Les Terres froides (Cold Lands) [TV]; Presque rien (Almost Nothing)
2001 La Traversée (The Crossing) [doc]
2004 Wild Side
2009 Plein sud (Going South)
2012 Les Invisibles [doc]