Filmmaker Chloe White shares with The Age of No Retirement what she has learnt from the films she's made about older people such as the star of her film, An All Encompassing Light, Hiroshima survivor Lee, now in his 80's.

The Age of No Retirement's Q&A with Director Chloe White.

Can you tell our readers a bit about who you are?

I’m a documentary filmmaker, I make films about anything or anyone that interests me.  I tend to be drawn towards women’s stories, and stories of strong individuals trying to make a difference. At the moment I’m working on a feature documentary about a group of women in one of South Africa’s poorest urban areas, going door to door, helping new mothers through this challenging time.

Can you tell us a bit about your role in this project/your motivation for making it the film about Lee?

I directed and shot 'An All Encompassing Light' three years ago while I was taking part in a BFI-run programme for young documentary filmmakers. I’d lived in Japan before and met many “Hibakusha”, as they’re known (meaning, bomb-affected people). It was alarming to find out that not only had they endured the atomic bomb, but they’d also had to live through years and years of discrimination following it.  A lot of Lee's life was shrouded in secrecy, none of his families or neighbours knew he was a Hibakusha. Now he’s out in the open he’s been able to travel the world telling his story.  I was drawn to his remarkable energy. He’s so active and healthy and eager to share his memories, it’s like he’s been silenced for so long and now he can finally talk and it’s given him a new lease of life.  

Has this project changed how you view age?

It’s always inspiring to meet older people who still live rich and full lives, as Lee does. Before this film I made a film 'This Life that Chose Me' about three transgender women who transitioned later in life. Like with Lee, these women showed me that old age doesn’t have to mean “the end”, it can be about new beginnings too. I think I’ve always had a positive view around getting older though because of my mum. She’s 60 now and she has more energy and enthusiasm then anyone I know. She has this kind of youthful radiance that shines out of her and strangers come up to her comment on it. It’s probably because she’s swims pretty much every day in the Hampstead ponds and has been running since she was 20.

Do you think how old you are today, is relevant to how you think about yourself and why?

Yes, I’m not sure if it should or not, but it does. I guess we think in decades, and now I’ve just entered my 30s I’m thinking a lot about what things I want to get done and in what order and when. Ultimately though, I still feel like a child.

Do you think how old you are today, changes how people think about you and why?

Of course, and I think women get it worse then men. Especially in films and on television. Once women reach a certain age they become invisible, but that happens much less for men.

What is the biggest stress in your life at the moment? Does this have anything to with how old you are?

"I think it’s good to listen to older people and I think we can definitely learn a lot from their mistakes and experiences. I think it’s also important for older people to listen too. A lot of older people dismiss young people as not caring, as being glued to their phones, but of course, that’s not true."

Chloe White.

I’m always a little bit stressed but that’s because I’m a bit of a workaholic and a filmmaker juggling trying to make money with trying to make films I want to make, as well as seeing all the many people I love on a regular basis. I’m not sure if this has much to do with age, I think I’ve always been a bit like that.

What do you think are the biggest challenges we share across all ages?

I think life challenges are so relative and so dependent on where you’re from, where you grew up, how much money you have etc etc. What I call challenges are nothing compared with what some people have to go through. I think women, of all ages, have to grapple with sexism and discrimination.

What can you learn from people who are older?

All sorts. I think it’s good to listen to older people and I think we can definitely learn a lot from their mistakes and experiences. I think it’s also important for older people to listen too. A lot of older people dismiss young people as not caring, as being glued to their phones, but of course, that’s not true.

What can you learn from people who are younger?

Again, anything. Young children often make a whole lot more sense to me then most adults!  

What do you think is the benefit of a society where our age does not define us?

I think equality is always a good thing. If we can begin to see through age, gender, nationality, race, then I think that’s when we start to become a more unified society.

You can find out more about Chloe White here.

"I think equality is always a good thing. If we can begin to see through age, gender, nationality, race, then I think that’s when we start to become a more unified society."

Chloe White.

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