Caroline Libresco HDS '91 (Producer, SUNSET STORY)
By Dominique Kalil '00
The state of old age is generally regarded as one of dementia, inactivity and incontinence. And for the most part, people turn away from stories chronicling senescence. In our society, growing old is certainly equated with an acquisition of knowledge and experience, but the state of actually ‘being old’ tends to be perceived as neither pleasant nor familiar. This is where the makers of Sunset Story vehemently differ. In a recent conversation, Caroline Libresco (one of the producers and a Harvard grad) stated that as a filmmaker she was drawn into the story of this elderly pair, their transformation, and their exemplary evolution.
There is a universal value to the film, in that we will all hopefully grow old – but how one does is really a matter of choice. The film implies that the stagnation associated with old age should not be inevitable. In our conversation, I asked Caroline if her religious education (MA in history of religion from the Divinity School) somehow influenced her decision to join the project. To me, the question made perfect sense—religion and geriatrics are completely congruent topics, in that religion deals with a post-death existence, while geriatrics focus on a pre-death existence. Not so. Caroline instead surprisingly responded by suggesting that Sunset Story is a reflection of the present, of intimate and common relationships, of an “engagement of life.” The story was less about death and more about living. To her, the point of the movie is not only to showcase a unique and memorable pair, but for the viewer to recognize the familiarity of this camaraderie.
Particularly striking to Caroline was the relationship she personally developed with the protagonists, becoming good friends as she would have with any of her contemporaries. Caroline noted that she generally gravitates towards passion projects – the making of Sunset Story took over 6 years, and she joined the crew a year into the piece. Sunset Story has been incredibly well received throughout its exposure. It will be air on PBS across the country, March 22 (except for in Los Angeles, where it will air April 3rd). The film can also be seen at San Francisco's Balboa Theatre from March 19-20th. The film won the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was a Special Jury Prize Winner at both the Tribeca and Miami International Film Festivals. Please visit www.sunsetstory.com for more information.