Monthly Archive for: ‘April, 2018’

Documentary film about healthy geezers is inspirational

Evelyn Ricciuti, 103, sparked “Lives Well Lived” documentary film.

They’ve avoided opioids and wheelchairs by doing yoga, dancing, sculpting and retaining a sense of humor about aging.

“Lives Well Lived,” a heartwarming, likable 72-minute documentary film, provides pithy closeups of 40 seniors (many of whom are creative types) between the ages of 75 and 103.

Over all, it’s inspirational, especially for an 80-year-old geezer like me.

Sky Bergman, a San Luis Obispo resident who’ll participate in opening weekend question-and-answer sessions May 4 in San Francisco and May 5 in Berkeley, directed it.

She, a prof of photography and video at CalPoly State University, immersed herself in the project after first having shot a one-minute video of her Italian grandmother, Evelyn Ricciuti, who died a year ago at 103, just weeks after the feature-length film debuted at a festival.

Although the documentary’s subtitled “Celebrating the Secrets, Wit and Wisdom of Age,” it’s somewhat light on both secrets and wit.

And since I’m convinced that a chunk of longevity depends — after the DNA is measured — on being able to laugh at yourself, I found the wit particularly skimpy.

Indeed, I chuckled only once, when a guy explains why he fathered nine kids: His wife couldn’t keep her hands off him, “and since I never had a headache, I had no excuse.”

As for the wisdom, interviewees mostly offer bumper-sticker philosophies while recounting their triumphs (and tragedies), helping to fashion a montage of happy, middle- and upper-class folks.

Including 78-year-old Blanche Brown (longtime estranged wife of ex-San Francisco mayor and state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown), a civil rights activist and dance teacher who unswervingly exudes cheerfulness.

In contrast are a few glimpses into the underbelly of life — by Suzy Eto Bauman, a Japanese American woman who talks about being forced into a U.S. internment camp during World War II while being married to a man who dies fighting in the American army, and by several who were saved from the Nazis while the Holocaust was exploding in Europe.

Sandwiched between, of course, are multiple inspirational tidbits.

Such as Rose Albano Ballestero’s being close to finishing her PhD, at age 80, because “no matter what age you are, learning never stops.”

Mainly, the shared answers to the question of what isa life well lived are unsurprising: following your passion, being self-accepting, taking risks and my favorite mantra, living one day at a time.

Interviewees also offer some sage (if familiar) advice to the young: “Don’t sweat the little things,” switch careers, let curiosity be a jump-starter, and “never try to change anyone, not one iota.”

The documentary shifts between current-day interviews and archival materials (ranging from fuzzy home movies to newsreel bits and pieces). The director-writer somehow cobbles it fit together almost seamlessly.

I take pride in thinking that I’m growing old gracefully. Happily, Bergman’s film makes me believe I, forever the optimist, might actually continue doing so for a couple more decades.

“Lives Well Lived” will open at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, on May 11, following its May 4 opening at the Vogue Theater in San Francisco and the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood in Berkeley.

Contact Woody Weingarten at

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