Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Up Series

I recently rediscovered the Up Series, a longitudinal study that began in 1964. "The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, renowned director Michael Apted, a researcher for Seven Up, has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives," the website explains. The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man", which is based on a quotation by Francis Xavier. There have been similar documentaries made around the world, including in Australia, Japan, & South Africa.

The fourteen children are: John, Charles, & Andrew, chosen from the same pre-preparatory school in the wealthy London suburb; Suzy, another child from a wealthy background; Jackie, Lynn, & Sue, friends from the same primary school in a working class neighbourhood; Tony, from London's East End; Paul & Symon, both at a charity-based boarding school; Nick, raised on a farm in the Yorkshire Dales; Neil & Peter, from the same middle-class Liverpool suburban school; & Bruce, attending a prestigious boarding school, but already an idealist concerned with poverty and racial discrimination. By the time 42 Up rolls around, there are only 11 regular participants, as John, Peter, & Charles have basically bowed out of the series. Suzy said she would not participate after 49 Up.

Wikipedia explains, "Because the show was not originally intended to become a repeating series, no long-term contract was signed with the participants. The interviews since Seven Up! have been voluntary, although the participants have been paid an unknown sum for their appearance in each film, as well as equal parts of any prize the film may win, says [director Michael] Apted. Each subject is filmed in about two days, and the interview itself takes more than six hours."

The first installment, Seven Up!, made me a little uncomfortable with its voiceover declaring that we were seeing future "shop stewards" as well as future success stories-the implication being that the working class kids or the kids who were from the charity home would be more likely to be the future shop stewards.  Still, it makes a nice introduction to the kids, & Seven Up!, like its sequel Seven Plus 7, clock in at just under an hour each. Starting with 21 Up, the films get longer.

The ABC Libraries catalog features 42 Up, the sixth movie, on VHS, & 49 Up, the seventh movie, on DVD. Also in the catalog you'll find a book called 42 Up, which has pictures & quotes from all the movies by the 11 continuing participants.  

Filming for the next installment in the series, 56 Up, is expected in late 2011 or early 2012! You can watch the trailer for the last installment, 49 Up, on PBS' POV webpage.

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