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Michael Apted's "56 Up" debuts Oct. 14 on PBS

Melissa Hayer Published: October 10, 2013
Tony Walker. - Photo Credit: First Run Pictures
Tony Walker. - Photo Credit: First Run Pictures

Acclaimed director Michael Apted’s “56 Up,” the latest installment in the documentary series that began by interviewing a group of British seven-year-olds in 1964 and then has checked back in with them every seven years since has its national broadcast premiere at 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14 on PBS.

Details, provided by PBS, are as follows:

In 1964, director Michael Apted (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gorky Park, Gorillas in the Mist) was a young researcher on an experimental program called Seven Up!, produced for England’s Granada Television. Taking its cue from the Jesuit maxim “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” the film focused on 7-year-olds from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. By asking 14 children about their lives and their hopes and fears for the future, the filmmakers aimed to explore contemporary English attitudes, especially regarding the class system. And by following the youngsters as they progressed through life, the Up series looked to test the strength of that system and the truth of the Jesuit saying. Was the adult already visible in the 7-year-old?

Apted took the series’ directorial helm, and over the half-century since, has interviewed the original group every seven years. The result has been a unique, inspired and always-surprising chronicle of lives-in-the-making. In 56 Up, Apted finds the “kids” have mostly weathered the marital, parental and career tumults of middle age with remarkable aplomb, even as they begin facing the challenges of aging, illness and economic crises.

56 Up has its national broadcast premiere on the award-winning series POV (Point of View), as part of the new PBS INDIES SHOWCASE. The full film will stream on POV’s website, http://www.pbs.org/pov/56up/, from Oct. 15-Nov. 13, 2013.

Not all original Up subjects have agreed to participate in each of the films. Some have dropped out and then back in, and one of the delights of 56 Up is the love-hate relationship some have with the series.

Meet Tony, the charismatic cockney cabdriver who has become so famous that another cabbie preferred to get his autograph instead of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s; Neil, who went from happy child to homeless young adult to lay preacher; Peter, who dropped out of the series but has returned 28 years later with his band, wife and children; Jackie, who has gone through marriage, divorce and family deaths; Lynn, a children’s librarian whose goal as a 7-year-old was to work at Woolworth’s; John, first seen as an upper-class child and now working as a barrister and doing charitable work; Nick, who went from farm boy to Oxford University student to nuclear-fusion researcher, and now teaches in the States; and Symon, a biracial child of a single mom who passed away at a young age.

Michael Apted, Director/Producer:
“This project has spanned my entire working life. It has been a unique and fulfilling experience, the one I treasure most in my career,” says Apted about the Up series, which won a 2013 Peabody Award. “21 Up was full of hope, 28 was about children and responsibility, 35 was concerned with mortality when some were losing parents, and 49 had a sense of disappointment with lives maybe not fully achieved. Yet 56 Up is quite different again, which goes to prove, if nothing else, that our series mirrors life ‹and is always full of surprises.”

Follow me on Twitter: @MelissaHayer



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