Movie Interviews
3:24 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

In 'Kings Point,' The Sunny Promise Of Retirement Gathers Clouds

Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 4:01 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This week on our program, we're going to hear from the directors of the five films nominated for Best Short Documentary at the Oscars, from life in the throes of breast cancer to life as a can collector on the streets of New York.

My co-host Audie Cornish begins with a conversation with the filmmaker of "Kings Point," a documentary about the not-so-golden times in a retirement community in Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "KINGS POINT")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Anybody that had a job and made a living could move to Kings Point. It was safe and so beautiful, with bamboo and various colors - green, blue, yellow, orange - we've never seen these colors in New York. My goodness, here you only have to put down $1,500 and you could be a condominium owner down here in Florida.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Sari Gilman is a director and producer of the short documentary "Kings Point." Sari, welcome to the program.

SARI GILMAN: Thanks so much for having me.

CORNISH: So, in the opening part of the film, you hear this setup of somebody describing almost kind of Shangri-La vision of what Kings Point was when it first opened and people were buying into it. Tell us a little bit more about Kings Point today.

GILMAN: Well, the demographic of Kings Point is changing a lot. And I haven't really spent much time there since my grandmother left about four years ago. But when she went down over 30 years ago, they were really sold on this idea of an active retirement in the sun, far away from your family, so, you know, they didn't have to worry about you growing old.

CORNISH: Largely, the film is actually about growing old, sort of how people relate to each other - friends, couples, entanglements that are romantic or otherwise. We meet one couple early in the film who are - I don't know if they're living together but they're sort of partnered with each other. And they talk about how others in the complex speculate about their relationship.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "KINGS POINT")

FRANK: You know, people see you together a lot.

BEA: Frank, I would say the same thing.

FRANK: And people do assume...

BEA: (unintelligible) they say, Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I tell them we're just friends and they say, Oh yeah.

FRANK: They assume whatever they want to assume.

BEA: Love comes in different forms, I guess, not only going to bed with each other...

FRANK: Right.

BEA: ...concern.

FRANK: It's companionship. You know, you got somebody to do something with and it's nice.

BEA: Finish your food.

FRANK: OK, I will.

CORNISH: That's Bea...

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: ... and Frank...

GILMAN: That's right.

CORNISH: ...who are friends, discussing love over dinner. Tell us, what are the dynamics at play? What are we hearing there?

GILMAN: I think you're hearing Bea kind of wanting a little bit more than she's actually getting from Frank. But I think in the end, Bea says, I don't know, if I have something to do on a Saturday night that's enough to me; resigning herself to the fact that, you know, she might not have the quintessential romantic relationship at this point in her life but if she has a companion, that's enough.

And with Frank, you know, he has someone cooking for him, someone looking after him. And I think that that's something that he craved and needed, as well.

CORNISH: The film also discusses the nature of friendship. And there's a group of women at one point who are describing how they feel at this stage of their lives, that they're really making more acquaintances not building real friendships. And there's a pretty brutal assessment that comes from a woman named Gert.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "KINGS POINT")

GERT: Nobody gets too close here. They're afraid. That's how they are here. Everybody is to themselves. They use - everybody is a user here.

GILMAN: There was almost a Darwinian aspect to social life there. It was kind of based on how healthy you were. So if you could go out and participate in these communal activities, if you could go to the mall or go to a dance or play cards, people wanted to socialize with you. And when you began to lose your mobility or you got sick or you just slowed down, which of course is inevitable, oftentimes people became less interested.

CORNISH: There is this enormous wave of people on the crest of retirement age that's coming.

(LAUGHTER)

GILMAN: Yeah.

CORNISH: And this film really pierces the image of what we've built up as a kind of golden period, right? You're going to retire in a sunny place and everything is going to be canasta and pictures of the grandkids. And this was not that sunny image.

GILMAN: No, it wasn't. I think it was that for the first 20, 25 years for many of residents who were my grandmother's age. But I think I really wanted to show the sort of clash of that sunny promise and what happens when, you know, you do live, you know, maybe 20 years longer than you thought you were going to live.

CORNISH: Did you feel any kind of guilt in a way when you were making this film? You know, we live in a culture in the States where people don't necessarily take in their grandparents as they age. And so, you're kind of part of the problem, so to speak, right, of what you're trying to portray.

GILMAN: Well, I think it's interesting because, you know, in 1978 when my grandparents announced to my parents that they were moving to Florida, my parents were upset. They were like, well, where are we going to dump the kids on the weekends, you know? So I don't think it's necessarily fair to sort of blame, you know, the children of the elderly for not taking their parents in.

Because I think the truth is, is that as Americans, we value our independence so much. And it's almost a badge of middle class status to be able to say: I don't need to live with my children, I can afford to live on my own. All of the people that in interviewed said: I would never want to live with my children. I would never want to do that to my kids.

CORNISH: Well, Sari Gilman, thank you so much for speaking with me.

GILMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

BLOCK: That's Sari Gilman, talking with my co-host Audie Cornish. Her short documentary, "Kings Point," premiers on HBO next month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.