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‘Young@Heart’ Beats for America

'Young@Heart' Beats for America

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(In the lobby of the Paramount Theatre, right before the SXSW screening of Young@Heart, are subjects Dora Morrow, Bob Cilman, Leonard Fontaine, director Stephen Walker, Louise Canady and Jack Schnepp. Photo by Brian Brooks for indieWIRE.)

A TV version of Stephen Walker’s documentary, Young@Heart, has already aired on UK television. But this entertaining portrait will finally have its debut in its native United States, with this week’s theatrical release by Fox Searchlight. This tender and funny look at a choir of elderly New Englanders singing punk rock tunes, was a hit with SXSW 2008 audiences this year and I’m eager for the rest of the country to see what I consider to be one of the most crowd-pleasing docs so far this year. In Sunday’s New York Times, Sylviane Gold profiles the film’s subjects as well as Stephen Walker on the eve of the U.S. release. From the article:

Part concert film, part music video, part reportage, “Young@Heart” follows members of the chorus for seven weeks as they mug for the camera (and one another), as they rehearse their songs, as they perform them. And, in their one nod to bel canto, as they die.

Mr. Walker, whose work for the BBC has included documentaries on Hiroshima, a porn star and a Jewish wedding, first saw Young@Heart at a 2005 concert in London. It was at the insistence of Sally George, his partner in film and life, and he was less than enthusiastic.

“Initially I thought it was some kind of weird gimmick,” he said by telephone from Los Angeles, where he and the group’s founder and director, Bob Cilman, were promoting the film. “I really was prepared to leave after 10 minutes.” He stayed, awed not just by the performance but also by the clamorous reaction in a theater “packed with every single age group.”

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