Dear Young People
In today’s world, we usually associate dance with youth and youth culture – a priceless commodity claimed by music, film, fashion, technology and more. Within any of these arenas there is little to no conversation around age or death. Quite the opposite, they are on the run from it. So what then, when we are faced with the unstoppable passage of time?
They Saw the Sun First is a beautiful meditation on the question of aging. The fact that it has been made into a stunning dance film – a niche area rarely occupied by the elderly – only makes it more appealing. With its wonderful voiceover of interviews with New York elders talking about death and growing old, it is part documentary, part entertainment, part magical realism, and pure brilliance.
As it opens we hear rapid breathing, and see the close up of a young woman wrapped in a towel – presumably fresh from a run or swim – against the light of a beautiful sunrise. Seconds later we hear the first voice over – a raw and unrehearsed interview that takes the shape of a letter: “Dear Young People, Oh boy… you have a lot on your plate.”
Beautifully shot in locations around New York, They Saw the Sun First is a love letter to the city. The film succeeds all at once as being philosophical, funny, poignant, and wildly clever. The dance – presumably choreographed with the dancers by Movement Director Vanessa Marian– is wonderful, melding perfectly with the score and all the scenes we see – brilliant vignettes fashioned in large part around the voiceover which is completely honest and off the cuff. In fact, the interviews in large part drive the narrative form and structure of the film.
Age happens to us all on a daily basis. Our faces and bodies become a map of where and how far we have travelled, and there are no good options for getting around this. But They Saw the Sun First is a great temporary anecdote. Beautifully directed by Stefan Hunt, with a fantastic piano score by FKJ, it is a small, quiet, masterpiece of a film that makes me feel glad to be alive.
And what more can we ask for?