Tropic Sprockets / Lives Well Lived

By Ian Brockway

Sky Bergman’s colorful documentary about the wisdom of maturity is thoughtful and engaging, while being casual, with a refreshing light sensibility. In the film she says her work started from asking her 102 year old grandmother questions. Once inspired, Bergman interviewed forty people. The result is “Lives Well Lived,” her debut film.

We meet Dr. Lou Tedone, a caring pediatrician known as “Lucky Louie” at age 92. Lou was dark and dashing as a young man. He married his sweetheart, a romance that lasted for some fifty years. He had nine children, and said he is convinced he was and is always lucky. Though the passing of his wife brings tears, Lou says attitude saves him: always do your best. He makes homemade mozzarella cheese for his granddaughter’s cafe. Lou never stops.

Then there is Emmy Cleaves, age 84 who escaped the Nazis and Russians and still has her spunk and stoicism. She is now a yoga teacher.

Another vivid subject is the photographer Santi Vaselli who photographed Hollywood stars Jack Nicholson, Sophia Loren and Jacqueline Bisset. At 81, he still uses the camera.

Many of the subjects endured great hardship, be it by Nazis, Communist occupation or The Great Depression. But one singular thing holds all of these 40 people together: a positive attitude.
Although the spectre of Death hangs over some of us, the people interviewed are largely unconcerned and frequently laugh at the mention of terminal doom. This gives the documentary a surprisingly light and easy feeling. What is repeatedly revealed over and over again is the daring nature of these so called aged people and that each of them refuse to accept what others may think. The subjects in this film unanimously assert that this sense of adventure is what is crucial to longevity, while change is inevitable.

The documentary is an effervescent study on creative aging. In a fanciful way, “Lives Well Lived” produces a real life “Twilight Zone” that is very possible through active mindfulness and the acceptance of an ever changing reality. The octogenarians are now adolescents solely by the force of the mind. The magic of this film is that you actually see the transformation as it happens.

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