BY C.J. Hirschfield
Writer Pearl S. Buck said that “To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.”
Two of the remarkable Bay Area women featured in the 10th annual Legacy Film Festival on Aging have seemingly done just that, and they’ve used their collective 200 (!) years of rich experience to arrive at a place where they now choose to enlighten and inspire.
NO TIME TO WASTE: THE URGENT MISSION OF BETTY REID SOSKIN, a film by Carl Bedleman, opens with a shot of a stool in an empty auditorium at Richmond, California’s Rosie the Riveter Historical Memorial Park. Soon the room fills, a diminutive 99-year-old Black park ranger enters to perch on the stool, and begins to tell a story. “When I’m on the stool, my story will not be forgotten,” she says.
Indeed, Betty Reid Soskin’s story is an important one, and she tells it well: that the shipyards that played such a key role in the U.S. victory in WWII were in fact plagued with sexism, segregation and discrimination, facts long omitted from historical representations.
The woman one young co-worker describes as being “Bette Davis, Angela Davis and Yoda–all rolled into one,” says that “In these final years, I’m empowered by that history,” and adds that “I feel like I’m running a federally-funded revolution.”
Unfailingly calm, gracious, and yes, positive, Soskin nonetheless presents a history that incorporates multiple truths, and urges us to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
The film effectively documents her personal life and times, greatly enhanced by historic photos and film.
The “urgent mission” phrase in the film’s title refers to Soskin’s quest to ensure that diverse stories become part of the American narrative.
“I have a soapbox, a stool, and a theater,” she says, “and I get to tell truth to generations that are able to use it.”
Marin County’s celebrated Anna Halprin, passed away on May 24, 2021 in her home in Kentfield at the age of 100. She is credited with helping redefine dance in post-war America, and is considered a pioneer of post -modern dance. She had been a longtime proponent of the healing power of dance, and in Ruedi Gerber’s film SENIORS ROCKING, she takes us to the Redwoods Retirement Community, where she will design a dance for seniors, who will be participating from rocking chairs.
“The rocking chair has a very comforting spirit,” she explains. “It gives a sense of being in the cradle,but is also a symbol of aging.”
Over the film’s half-hour running time we’re introduced to the senior men and women who’ve chosen to take part in a public event that Halprin hopes will bring them together in community and nature (the performance is outdoors, by a lagoon), while enlivening their bodies and spirits alike. We hear how the seniors, some of whom have recently experienced loss, some who haven’t danced in quite a while, all speak of the positive impact the dance experience has had on them.
The performance itself is lovely, full of evocative movement inspired by the seniors’ own stories, and accompanied by beautifully ethereal flute and percussion music.
One lively senior, one of many who didn’t stay in his rocker for long, jokes that what was once rock ‘n roll is now rock ‘n soul, referring to the slower– but possibly more meaningful– moves. About the performance he says “I kinda stumbled into this—the greatest stumble I’ve ever made.”
Anna Halprin says “Whatever you do, contribute to the welfare of others.” Maybe that’s the real fountain of youth illuminated in these two fine films featuring two amazing women. May we all live so long and so well.
The virtual Legacy Film Festival on Aging (May 24-31, 2021) features over 30 films from around the world, exploring life in the world of aging. The program offers considerable diversity in its subjects, and encompasses a range of stories focusing on the complexities of the caregiving process, something that so many of us know so well.
For more information and tickets to see the films in your home, visit www.legacyfilmfestivalonaging.org. Search the complete program of films. All movies are available at your convenience through Monday, May 31. This page tells you “how to watch.”
NO TIME TO WASTE can be seen a part of the “Civil Rights” program.
Visit the NO TIME TO WASTE website.
Become friends with Betty Reid Soskin on her Facebook page.
“A Museum of Natural Wonders” –a terrific interview with Betty by Kate Tucker for Garden & Health.
Read her book, Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life
The Rosie the Riveter American Homefront Oral History Project has an extensive interview in the Bancroft Library site.
Betty has her turn in Newsweek with “I’m 99, And the Oldest Park Ranger in America.”
See more videos including a conversation at the Commonwealth Club.
Rosie The Riveter Trust
SENIORS ROCKING can be seen as part of the “Fun & Games” program.
Visit the SENIORS ROCKING website.
Anna Halprin Digital Archive at the Museum of Performance & Design
San Francisco Chronicle Obituary by Sam Whiting, May 25, 2021
ANNA HALPRIN: 100 Years, A Life of Dance– Featuring wonderful photos and Tributes
Watch more videos of Anna’s dancing and interviews.
Halprin wrote three books, Making Dances That Matter, Returning to Health and Moving Toward Life. Indiebound allows you to purchase these along with other books about her from independent book stores.
C.J. Hirschfield recently retired after 17 years as Executive Director of Children’s Fairyland, where she was charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park. Prior to that, she served as an executive in the cable television industry where she produced two series, ran San Francisco’s public access channel and advocated on behalf of the industry. A former writer for Film Month, she also penned a weekly column for the Piedmont Post for 13 years and now writes features and reviews for EatDrinkFilms. C.J. holds a degree in Film and Broadcasting from Stanford University.
Hirschfield currently serves on the programming team for the Appreciating Diversity Film series showing free documentaries in Oakland and Piedmont, as well as on the advisory board of Youth Beat, a youth media training program that provides low-income Oakland students with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive in today’s workforce.
C.J. says, “A good documentary takes us places we never could never have imagined, and changes the way we see the world.”