In 1964, Granada Television commissioned as a program in which they would interview 14 Seven year olds in London and surrounding areas from all different social, economical, and educational backgrounds.
The purpose of the original program was to paint a picture of England's future, and was based off the premise of Francis Xavier's quote: "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." The Show was called 7 Up and was apparently a great success.
Yet, a really special thing happened. Seven years later they returned to find all 14 of the children in the original 40 minute television program and taped them at the age of 14 in a show they called 7 Plus Seven. In this reprise, they asked similar questions and tracked their hopes and aspirations even over the past 14 years.
This film was followed up every seven years, and its last installment came out in 2005. Through 21 up, 28 up, 35 up, 42 up, and 49 up, it's an incredible experience. I know the original intentions of the program seem to be about the role of social class in development, and while it is that, the films are even more so an amazing experience unto themselves. Even the story in time becomes less central to England as they film in Australia, the United States, former Soviet countries, and the middle East as appropriate.
In the United States with MTV's the Real World, and Survivor we became reality show junkies, but nothing is as real as what you experience in the Up Series because people are held accountable to their dreams and lives. Many of the participants talk about how they hate being interviewed because it's a painful experience to dig through the past seven years and reflect on the different films that have come out already. There is unachieved dreams, failed marriages, and rough stages of life.
Yet there is also hope and univeresal life stages and principles that hold these participants together and connect their story with any viewer. There is exciting achievements, there's the birth of children, job developments, etc. that are very exciting to see as well.
To me it is also an interesting film expirement in terms of technology and entertainment. The production methods and styles change over the 5 different decades these films have been made. And in the same way you see changing technology and film style, you also see the expected cultural changes and shifts in the second part of the 21st century including dress, hair styles, and so forth.
Watching these documentaries has really been one of the most fascinating things I have experienced, and I can not wait until 56 up comes out in 2012.