There is a place in Arizona that is so peaceful that people go there to die: a retirement community in the middle of the desert, especially designed for senior citizens, with palm trees and bungalows, blue skies, red sunsets, an abundance of pharmacies and extra-wide streets for a comfortable ride in your golf cart!
Seen from Europe, Sun City seems like a utopian vision: a town designed on the drawing board that looks like some extra-terrestrial apparition. And yet, since 1963 it has been routine and everyday reality.
Fun! Fun! Fun! The bright lights flash: there is a punk band in the garage and a tap dance revue on the stage. The old punks call themselves “One Foot in the Grave” and the tap dancers radiate revue charm with undisguised pleasure in what they are doing instead of a perfect figure and blemish-free skin.
Aging is a condition where “aches and pains are part of the deal”, as Jim observes. On the other hand, you have reached a point in your life where you can just shrug and say: “Get over it or take a pill to make you feel good”. At least, that’s what Betty-Jane recommends. Everyone living here has to find his or her own way to deal with life while facing death: if you don’t have much time left, you can choose to make the best out of it. Jim sums it up nonchalantly: “We come to Sun City to die – but to have fun while doing it!”
It’s all about attitude. The residents of Sun City do not subscribe to the view that the last chapter of our lives has to be a solemn one. The town provides a stage on which the protagonists of the film perform the drama of old age as a metaphorical round dance. In telling their stories the residents reveal what they have gained – and lost – from life. They speak openly about the painful side of aging, as well as its pleasures. And they believe that being happy is a decision we can take.
NOTES TO THE PLACE
If you are over 55 you can begin your “second life” in Sun City – in your own neat little house, in rented accommodation, or in a retirement or nursing home. You may live here for twenty, thirty or even forty years – who can tell how long it will be? Life here is inexpensive and so most of the inhabitants of this paradise for the aged are middle class and come from all over the country. There is no need to levy taxes to finance town halls, schools and other institutions that only the young require. And most of the odd jobs are dealt with by the residents on a voluntary basis.
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Abraham Meth, Jim Koopman, Jan and Mike Jackson, Kitty and Roger Yadro, Olive Hosmer, Earl Warren, Kelley Greenburg, Jodina Errichetti and One foot in the grave, Betty-Jane Peters, Dee and Dutch Schultz
CAMERA susan gluth ORIGINAL SOUND Doro Carl, Lothar Niehaus EDITORS Xavier Box, susan gluth, Andreas Zitzmann, Gerhard Schabel ARTISTIC CONSULTANT Thomas Heiber DRAMATURGY CONSULTANT Dr. Hermann Barth ORIGINAL MUSIC “One foot in the grave”, Dutch Schultz, Andreas Weidinger COMPOSER Cico Beck, Florian Kreier MUSICAL CONSULTANT Pirmin Marti, Antonio Martinez RE-RECORDING MIXER Sascha Heiny, Hendrik Knoch, Loft Studios SOUND EDITOR Kai Storck, Simon Bastian, Volker Zeigermann TITLE DESIGN Bernd Müller, graphikcafe HD-COLOUR GRADING Martin Heckmann LAYWERS Dr. Daniel Kaboth, Kanzlei Ampersand, Dr. Christian Dietrich, Christian Füllgraf, Manuel Roderer TAX CONSULTANT Anke Grothe, Steuerbüro Grothe Lilienthal ACCOUNTING Piotr Odemski PRODUCTION CONSULTANT Tanja Meding LANGUAGE CONSULTANT Jane Michael FESTIVAL CONSULTANT Andrew Rodgers WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY susan gluth PRODUCER susan gluth PRODUCTION COMPANY gluthfilm
This documentary circles around age and death in an entertaining, funny, absurd, reflecting and sad way at the same time. Not an intellectual approach. The film touches on a lot of important issues about aging, what it means to those who do, how they deal with it and how to age gracefully. And it shows how a utopian community, build specifically for the older generation may work – or not.