Director: Saffron Cassaday Runtime: 75 min Rating: G
Technology is something that many people in this day and age take for granted every day. I have difficulty imagining even a short period of time without the Internet, a tool that I use for my work and entertainment, as well as to stay in touch with those I love. The new documentary Cyber-Seniors, from debut nonfiction filmmaker and Toronto native Saffron Cassaday, follows a group of senior citizens as they learn how to use the World Wide Web with the help of a spunky group of technologically inclined teenagers. This heart warming story reveals not only the challenges that the seniors face in learning a new skill, but also the changing opinions of the young mentors with whom they work.
When Cassaday’s younger sisters Macaulee and Kascha started Cyber-Seniors – a group that connects young mentors with older individuals interested in learning the ways of the Internet – as a high school project, this young filmmaker immediately saw the potential for a documentary. Using first hand video footage and interviews, this film shadows young people as they visit seniors and teach them right in their homes. This work also follows the evolving cancer stories of the filmmaker’s sister and grandfather, and reveals how the Internet allowed them to stay in touch and to maintain meaningful connections throughout their treatments. Cassaday hopes that her debut film will inspire seniors all over North America to tackle the challenge of the Internet with the help of an ever-expanding Cyber-Seniors program.
The wit of these sharp senior citizens keeps the tone of the film light and humorous, and the good kids that help them keep an audience smiling as their interactions often surprise and never fail to amuse. Many of the seniors are initially highly distrustful of the Internet, especially programs such as the notorious Facebook and Youtube, but it is fun to watch them as they learn to embrace this technology and use it to maintain communication with family members and to make new friends – and even to attempt to date, in one amusing case. Through their interactions, the young teenagers also learn that these older people are similar to them in many ways, sharing common interests and curiosities.
Cyber-Seniors effectively depicts the surprise and joy that these people feel at discovering that which many take for granted every single day, such as finding family members on Facebook and viewing their pictures. A scene that stood out to me in particular portrayed an elderly lady’s reaction to hearing the requested Hallelujah Chorus on Youtube, something she didn’t seem to believe was actually possible. This film is sweet, well meaning, and full of heart, like the program and the individuals involved who inspired it, and offers young people new insights into those of an older generation.
The film plays in Toronto for a limited time at the Carlton Cinema from May 30 – June 5.