Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Documentary: SET FOR LIFE

"Ageism is alive and well . . . " According to statistics put forth by SET FOR LIFE, a compelling, award-winning documentary that delves into the stark realities of Baby Boomers who are faced with the trickle-down effects of the faltering U.S. economy, the unemployment rate for workers 50 years of age and older is worse than it was during the Great Depression. While the national job report numbers appear to be improving every month (on paper), negative trends for older workers are not reversing.  It takes, on average, 14 months or longer for older workers to find new employment - if they can find work at all.  

SET FOR LIFE fleshes out the personal stories behind these statistics to great effect. Between 2010 and 2012, Susan Sipprelle and Samuel Newman of Tree of Life Productions traveled around the United States and documented the stories of 100 unemployed Americans, 50 years of age and older.  (These interviews can be viewed on the "Over 50 and Out of Work" project website. Link HERE)

The related documentary, SET FOR LIFE, follows, in depth and with compassion, the lives of three Baby Boomers who have been thrust into unemployment and forced to face the erasure of their American Dream. Each story brings into focus exacerbated personal hardships, struggles and downsized expectations, where those out of work submit hundreds of resumes, often for jobs beyond/beneath the scope of their expertise, while house payments cannot be met, health insurance lapses and retirement benefits are cashed in.

One case study revolves around a 52 year-old husband, a third generation steelworker and cancer-survivor in West Virginia, who, after a twenty-five year history of being laid-off and rehired, must choose between the continued cycle of working intermittently at the mill or pursuing another line of work, which offers more steady employment.
Another thread of the film follows the decisions made by a 60 year-old, single woman in South Carolina who is laid off as a college records officer due to "federal and state cutbacks" and becomes dependent on her sons to help pay her mortgage, put food on the table, etc. Can a part-time job she finally lands as a grant researcher for a non-profit organization--that barely pays minimum wage--prove enough to make ends meet?

The most moving story of the trio is that of a 58 year-old I.T. Specialist in California whose high-tech professional life goes belly up around the same time his son, a young father of two children, returns home from active military duty as a double amputee and now depends on the help, care and support of his extended family.

Sipprelle and Newman have created an important, engaging documentary that addresses the personal perils of a national crisis. This situation may become even more grave if and when the eligibility age for Social Security benefits is raised. The film asks viewers to contemplate larger questions of self-worth, resilience and the necessity for change and reinvention in the midst of an uncertain world.

To watch the trailer for SET FOR LIFE, link HERE

To purchase a copy of SET FOR LIFE, link HERE
To learn more about TREE OF LIFE PRODUCTIONS, link HERE
To learn more about writer and photojournalist Susan Sipprelle, link HERE
To learn more about filmmaker Samuel Newman, link HERE