The elderly get a bad reputation. Take Herbert Sepp, the star of WORLD CHAMPION. Anyone who saw the 83 year-old Estonian in a park yelling at children for riding their bikes in the long jump area would think him a crotchety old man. That’s what the kids think until they watch, mesmerized, as he stands on his head to warm up for his pole vaulting practice. Similarly, when these kids see a nun, they probably think of mysterious religious rituals. But THE VEIL looks behind the scenes at the funny, joyful women who populate an Italian convent. These two delightful documentaries prove that there’s much more to these oldsters than meets the eye.
WORLD CHAMPION follows Sepp as he trains to become a world champion pole vaulter. His old age does not deter him, though he gripes that he needs to save money because his pension alone is not enough. Still, Sepp’s sunny demeanor allows him to shrug off every setback, and his joy is infectious. During some downtime before the competition, Sepp pulls out an accordion and starts serenading his competitors. “When it gets boring, one needs to fill the atmosphere,” he explains. Sepp does just that throughout this delightful film, filling the screen with his warmth, good nature, and quirky sense of humor. Sepp has no qualms about stripping down to his underwear in front of the camera while doing his morning strength training routine, and he talks frankly about the health benefits of sex. Although the nuns of THE VEIL never take off their habits, they still bare it all in their own way.
THE VEIL follows a couple days in the lives of the sisters in an Italian convent. Instead of depicting their religious rituals, director Mattia Colombo focuses on the more mundane aspects of their lives, such as reading the newspaper, sewing, and playing cards. But what most stands out is their senses of humor. Throughout the film, the sisters good-naturedly tease each other about everything from their sewing skills to the virtues of patience. At one point, they even dance to the song “Y.M.C.A.,” which is quite a sight.
Although most of the nuns in THE VEIL are elderly, the film also follows a young nun who is new to the convent. She tells the heartwarming story of how, as a young girl, the nuns treated her so lovingly when she spent time with them after mass. When the older nuns tailor her new habit, joke with her about letting her “husband” see the dress before the wedding, and give her advice on how to wear the veil, it’s clear that they still love her.
Both these films offer a light-hearted look at some elderly people who are anything but the stereotypical old curmudgeon. Whether they pursue a pole vaulting title or a life serving God, these old folks show that life can be filled with joy, excitement, and love at any age.
WORLD CHAMPION will be screened with MEN WHO SWIM, a film about a middle-aged man who joins a synchronized swimming team.
THE VEIL will be shown with HOLYWARS a film about a Muslim and a Christian who travel the world, spreading their different faiths. Check out these films and be prepared to be surprised.
— Meredith Metcalf