Current Magazine

56 Up: Documentary Maker Michael Apted’s Longitudinal Study of British Society is Still Going Strong

Posted on the 15 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
56 Up is Apted's latest update on the random people he first started filming when they were aged just seven

Michael Apted in 2005. Photo credit: Sheffield doc/fest

The background

What began in 1964 as a one-off World in Action documentary entitled 7 Up has become one of the longest-running documentary series of all time, returning to our screens as 56 Up.

Inspired by the Jesuit maxim ‘Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man,’ Michael Apted’s much-loved documentary series charts the lives of seven working-class and seven upper-class children every seven years. The Guardian said that the series is “a social history of this country.” Giving a window into how their lives are changing and developing, Apted’s most recent installment follows 13 of the original line-up that have “become like a family,” according to The Daily Mail.

In 56 Up, viewers will be able to see how the lives of familiar faces such as Sue, Neil, Tony and Bruce have progressed since they were last on our screens in 2005. The first installment of the three-episode series aired on Monday 14 May, and it will continue on 21 May.

Like old friends

The critics have insisted that the power of the series comes from the way the viewers have grown up with the subjects. The Mirror said that “it’s hard not to look on this group as your canaries in the coal mine of life and compare their circumstances to your own,” whilst The Independent said that “if you’ve grown up with these characters over the series’ nearly 50-year run you will know all too well how steadily the years can reel you in.” The Guardian argued that the series works on a sense of familiarity: “It is actually a bit like having real friends, but friends you see only every seven years,” and that the intervals between shows creates something “regularly spaced but looking on to something that’s always moving and changing.” The Independent suggested that the rich history of the show affects its authenticity: “If there is a problem with the series now, though, it’s that the accretion of past history has made it increasingly difficult to get a deeper sense of how these people feel.”

Too few women

The press has been keen to point out that the original formula of the show, which was meant to reflect British society, under-represents women. The Guardian comment that “It’s not perfect. There’s that lack of women – just four out of 13. And what probably looked like a very broad cross-section of society in 1964 now looks rather narrow.” However, Apted’s later works include strong female characters.

63 Up?

The question over the future of the momentous series has occupied the press. The Telegraph said that “over the next seven years, mortality is likely to become an important issue in both Apted’s life and the lives of his subjects.” Celia Walden wrote that “for Apted, this is a project that should be taken as far as it can go. It’ll be the longest longitudinal study that’s ever been done and it will live forever.” The Daily Mail quoted the show’s producer, Claire Lewis: “When we lose somebody it’ll make the others think very hard about doing it again … I don’t know what effect that would have on us and on them. It’s very hard watching yourself grow old on screen.”

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Woody Allen: A Documentary

    Woody Allen: Documentary

    For over 40 years, at a remarkable pace of about a film a year, Woody Allen has been bringing his comedic, and dramatic sensibilities to the movie world... Read more

    By  Kaiser31083
  • Naomi Campbell Documentary

    One of the world's top models with mesmerising beauty, naomi campbell continues to make headlines for her bad behavior. Read more

    By  Success
  • Matisse Murals from British Columbia

    Matisse Murals from British Columbia

    I’m getting all kinds of great stuff from up north this week. Here’s a reader from Port Alberni, BC who worked tirelessly with her 2nd and 3rd graders (and... Read more

    By  Kathybarbro
  • British Firm Doubles Up with Solar/Wave Power Combo

    British Firm Doubles with Solar/Wave Power Combo

    Wouldn’t it be nice to harness the power from all that turbulence in the seas? There are numerous startups working to try to perfect a technique to do just... Read more

    By  2ndgreenrevolution
  • Kendrick Lamar Michael Jordon

    Kendrick Lamar Michael Jordon

    Man, the game chose me, what am I to do? Kendrick Lamar released a mixtape titled Overly Dedicated a year ago,we would all agree we don't listened to much of... Read more

    By  Rover
  • This Is It (Documentary)

    This (Documentary)

    If you grew up listening to Michael Jackson as a child, This Is It is the perfect documentary for you. Unlike other stories and documentaries on Michael, this... Read more

    By  Raghavmodi
  • Bill Cunningham New York [2010] Documentary

    Bill Cunningham York [2010] Documentary

    The first few shots of the Bill Cunningham documentary tend to push you away, to make you think "why is this creepy old guy stalking girls on the streets of... Read more

    By  Diana