There are days for everything nowadays, and not just Saints’ Days: an uncle of mine observes such absurdities as World Egg Day and National Burger Day. Despite these days being intended – usually by trade organisations – to raise awareness of their subjects, that awareness usually extends only to this conversation with an acquaintance over lunch:
ACQUAINTANCE: Did you know it’s World Pasta Day?
YOU [biting into your sandwich]: Oh. How do you know?
ACQUAINTANCE: I saw it on Facebook.
YOU: Oh. The new Bond film’s out soon.
But at least the United Nations International Day of Older Persons raises awareness for something worth raising awareness of. It’s questionable how good a job it does, however, because I don’t think I know anybody who pays attention to the United Nations, and that would go double if I knew any world leaders. I was only made aware of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons by Short Sighted Cinema, which is, as far as I am aware, not a UN-affiliated body. And, much as the programme of mostly thought-provoking shorts helped make me more aware of older persons, one wonders how much the programme did for older persons themselves, because there was only one in attendance – and he was the star!
Despite the promise of free entry for the over-sixties, the choice of ultra-young-and-hip, not to mention hard-to-find Proud Archivist in Haggerston probably did nothing to entice. And, due to unforeseen circumstances moving the programme from The Proud Archivist’s indoor screen to their outdoor one, everyone ended up getting free entry anyway, though donations solicited at the end went half-and-half to Short Sighted Cinema and Age Concern, so that’s OK.
The programme opened with its strongest entry, which they call frontloading when they’re sequencing pop albums. “Born to be Mild”, by Andrew Oxley, follows the Dull Men’s Club, an association of appreciators of roundabouts, postboxes, and other dull ephemera. It’s a paradoxical riot, and the aforementioned star was the Dull Men’s Club’s assistant vice president (ie. president, but duller), Leland Carlson. He’s charming, fascinating, and funny on screen, and was wildly popular in the flesh – so presumably will have to step down from his post, now. The only trace of dull behaviour was slipping away just after ten to get on his train back to Winchester.
Next was Poppy Buckley’s “People of the Peninsula”, which looks at a centre that helps Chinese immigrants who don’t speak English. Nothing was wrong with the short per se, but it was the programme’s least interesting, touched a little with the feeling of a public-informational film. “Head Over Heels”, by Timothy Reckhart, is a stop-motion animation with a nice line in visual metaphor: a couple have literally grown apart, because the woman lives on the ground and the man on the ceiling, as their house tumbles through the sky. It’s dialogue-free and pretty affecting, the sort of thing you can easily imagine playing in a cinema before the main feature, and possibly even outshining it. Asmita Shrish’s “Aunty Ganga” had a subject slightly similar to that of “People of the Peninsula”, but was far better realised, dealing with a couple of Gurkha immigrants living in Aldershot, and slowly and brutally revealing the wife’s misery and frustration.
After that it was time for a break followed by the programme’s other light-hearted film, Duncan Cowles’ “Directed By Tweedie”, in which a young and slightly obnoxious documentarian tries to teach his dour Scots grandfather to work his equipment. It’s pleasantly slow and doesn’t feel as long as it is despite being, at seventeen minutes, the longest in the programme. Finally, and harrowingly, we had Chloe White’s “An All Encompassing Light”, in which an elderly Korean living in Japan recalls being caught in the blast as Hiroshima as a young man.
If the programme didn’t quite succeed in showing off the range of short film – with five documentaries and an animation, it pretty much featured only the absolutely expected genres of short – it certainly succeeded in demonstrating the range, the dignity and the indignity of the experience of old age, which is surely a more important outcome than the other. Plus it was free and the mulled wine was free, so what could be better?