|Imagine a world where Granny Clampett discovers YouTube.|
Imagine no more. Your OWN Granny can become a rap star.
Sadly, Uncle Jed, Jethro & Ellie-Mae's Granny is SOL.
But, one can dream the impossible dream, can't one?
Dir. Saffron Cassaday
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Director Cassady's younger sisters founded a non-profit organization in Toronto to pair senior citizens with super-young mentors who teach the oldsters how to use computers, but mostly, to make use of online services like Facebook, Skype and YouTube. When one considers that there are people in their 30s-50s who are computer illiterate, tech-savvy amongst older generations is virtually nil. The power of computers and the internet should be available to those who could benefit from it. The training program is clearly a great opportunity - not just for the seniors, but the young mentors to acquire the skills of training, but also the wealth of experience and knowledge in other areas that they can gain from interacting with the seniors.
While Cassady was documenting the process, it was decided to turn it into into a real movie. Hence, Cyber-Seniors. What we get is a relatively painless, surface look at the aforementioned Toronto-based program. The first third is devoted mostly to the seniors plonking their gnarly fingers onto keyboards whilst the young'uns patiently guide them through cyber-land. They learn everything from basics like passwords, logging in, setting up Facebook accounts, engaging in the joys (so to speak) of email, watching videos on Youtube and enjoying Skype conversations with their families.
About halfway in for the middle third of the picture, a personal medical challenge rears its surprising and decidedly ugly head with one of the film's participants and we get a few dollops of that story while the rest of the film gives us more plonking on keyboards mixed with mildly entertaining footage of the seniors devising, shooting and then uploading videos to YouTube.
One of the seniors uploads a cooking segment that becomes quite a hit and this inspires the others to do likewise on a variety of topics (one happy Granny does her own rap video). It becomes a contest leading up to a grand premiere and the bestowing of prizes to three lucky winners. The aforementioned medical challenge thankfully resolves itself, but there's a bittersweet element introduced as another challenge to another of the film's participants comes up. We are, however, left on a very positive note of how computers and the internet can become an extremely important tool to bridge cultural gaps, but also the literal gaps of families separated by distance.
The movie is definitely assembled with competence and was never designed to go deeper than it does. It will probably make for pleasant enough viewing on television or in non-theatrical showings at senior care centres, community centres and anywhere else seniors and their families gather. I know my Mother would like it big-time.
If there are any disappointments to be had with the film it's that the feather-weighted investigation into this first-rate organization only barely touches on the young mentors. Part of me thought that a film about the mentors might have been a nice adjunct to this. Perhaps even a sequel is in the works.
The two other items that caused me a bit of disappointment is something the filmmaker clearly had no power over. Firstly, the interests of the seniors seemed to fall stereotypically along gender lines - the guys are into email, golf and banking while the ladies are interested in cooking and gardening. The only common thread between genders were the communication and social networking possibilities.
Secondly, everyone in this film is so darned normal. Would it have been that impossible to find one Bad Grandpa interested in accessing internet porn? Or is that asking too much?
The Toronto premiere of Cyber-Seniors occurs May 30 - June 5 at the Carlton Cinema, followed by one-off event screenings in cities across Canada and the United States. Q&As will follow the 7pm screenings on Friday & Saturday.