This film festival has been going for more than a decade, but you’d be forgiven for not being familiar with it. Your eyes have likely just passed over the word “seniors” when you saw it promoted, but this short season of films has a surprising range. There’s Nebraska, the most recent film from indie darling Alexander Payne, overlooked Stanley Kubrick period drama Barry Lyndon, and the Australian premiere of Before You Know It, an affecting documentary following the very different lives of three elderly gay men.
So is there an age limit to quality cinema? Festival programmer Roberta Ciabarra answers a resounding, “No”.
“You don’t want to be too prescriptive,” Ciabarra says. “The only thing a lot of our audience members have in common is that they’re in a particular age group. Obviously if there’s a hit Judi Dench or Maggie Smith film, that will probably make it in … but really, we want to appeal to anyone who has a discerning interest in cinema.”
While the line-up is full of interesting picks, Before You Know It is perhaps the most striking. Ty is an African-American senior gay activist. Robert is a flamboyant, drag-loving elderly bar owner. Dennis is a 70-something ex-soldier only recently out of the closet. They’re just three of an estimated 2.4 million LGBT seniors in the United States, and the film sees them reflect on their marginalised positions in society, both now and in the past.
"It’s the kind of thing that could just have easily shown at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival,” says Ciabarra. “I didn’t see it in the program there, and I thought it deserved an audience.”
As if it isn’t already eclectic enough, the festival is also host to a pair of Charlie Chaplin classics, Modern Times and The Great Dictator, to mark the 100th anniversary of Chaplin’s Tramp persona. Ken Loach’s Spirit of ’45, a reflection on the social and political world of post-World-War-Two Britain, is showing, as is Sunshine on Leith, a Scottish musical based on the hits of The Proclaimers.
The Seniors’ Film Festival runs from October 5–10 at ACMI. Tickets are $5 for seniors, $13 for general admission. Bookings are recommended.