Doc Soup: Our Review of ‘100UP’

Posted in Retrospective, Theatrical, What's Streaming? by - February 14, 2022
Doc Soup: Our Review of ‘100UP’

It’s easy to confuse Heddy Honigmann’s 100UP with the entries in the Up series only because of the title, but thankfully the similarities end there. The latter series show just the right amount of conflict as Apted films each entry. But this documentary feels more conversational even if it deals with heavier subject matter. It even takes the camera away from the centenarian subjects, recording their voices as other people go about their business. It’s as if the film is expressing that these stories are hiding in plain sight, waiting for documentaries like this to expose them.

One of those stories come from Mathilde Freund, who was 102 when the cameras started rolling. She spends time selling second hand goods while telling the camera her story. She was a young Jewish bride in Austria in 1938. That’s when Hilter decided to annex her country to Germany. Stories like this remind viewers like us of how time makes us drift apart from history. As a 90s kid, Hitler to me was 60 years ago. Now he’s 80-something years ago, and I and these subjects are witnessing politics so volatile that WWII refugees have to comment on them.

Life is long, and that’s not just true for subjects like Freund, who technically is part of 100Up‘s North American contingent. Its other subjects also live their lives in Europe, like Laila Myrhaug, who was 100 during filming. As a counterpoint from the American subjects who talk a lot, Myrhaug and the few Europeans quietly check their mail and tend to their plants in their greenhouses. This is probably just a personal nitpick but some of these juxtapositions feel off.

I’ll also echo some of the criticisms I’ve read about this documentary. It tries its best to bring a cross section to the screen by depicting centenarians from three continents. For example, there’s Raul Jeri, a 100 year old doctor who in 2018 was still working in hospitals in Lima. But there are two people who are living past 100 in Japan. And their insights and lives are equally important, in my opinion.

Life also feels conventional, and there are elements in the filmmaking here that feel that way. Viewers know they’re in New York because there’s smooth jazz playing, accompanying visuals of Midtown’s snowy streetscapes. But I’m a sucker for these things. Old people say something smart, I listen. One of those smart old people is Shirley Zussman, who was 103 during filming.

Writing about three of these subjects reminds me of how great the female representation is here, but then again cis women live longer because they participate in adventure with less risk. Zussman talks about abortion (she’s a sex therapist) and how her body (mal)functions because of her age. Regardless of the subject matter, I can handle a few more minutes of any topic these subjects bring up.

100Up is part of Hot Docs’ Doc Soup series, coming out for a one time in person screening (?) on February 16.


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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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