The “7 Up” series is often described as the best documentary ever made. Starting with a one off program in 1964 it explored the future of British society through the lives of a group of 7 year old children.
Seven years later Michael Apted, who had been a researcher on the original program revisted the young people and continued exploring the direction of their lives. Last year 56 Up was released. Apted had returned to their lives with a film crew every 7 years for nearly 50 years.
I have always admired these people as they have had their lives audited and scrutinised by Apted and then the viewer. Yet because of their sacrifice in this process we have a record of changes, large and small, in British society over a 50 year period. From the class system, attitudes to marriage and children, through to the rise of technology and the changes in fashion, have all been recorded – both consciously and unconsciously. Their lives, and in some real sense, our Western lives have been etched into history.
As a teacher I have used this resource in a variety of ways. The series chronicles human decisions, character, history and society. However I have always been conscious that we are dealing with the lives of real people and that these lives have been filtered through the interviewing and editing by Michael Apted and his team. Whenever I use this series I remind my students to be respectful because the people are not Hollywood creations but fellow human beings with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears just like the rest of us.
I have never been disappointed by my classes responses. Yes they may like one person more than another but we have that in life anyway. It also wonderful to see how students respond to decisions that the participants make and modify their views and responses. I will relate some of these in the future.
I admire all the people in this project simply because of their courage and openness. When we see their lives we get a glimpse of our own.
I hope to write more in the days ahead.