Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Personals (1999)

1 Nomination, 1 Win

Win: Best Documentary, Short Subjects

The Personals is a sweet, heartfelt documentary short presenting a group of senior-citizens on the Lower East Side of New York who are putting on a play about both their current quest for love and their past stories of love and relationships. The film simultaneously, and a bit ingeniously, documents the development of the play and the stories of each individual.

What is initially jarring but ultimately most satisfying about The Personals is the frankness with which each individual talks about both their past history and present loneliness. We as a society de-sexualize senior citizens, forgetting that they once felt (and often still feel) the same desires for love, romance, and sex that younger people feel. Hearing one older woman talk about the loneliness and lack of fulfillment she felt throughout her long marriage, a very old man talk about the effectiveness of his sexual organs, and numerous similar discussions is not the usual fare of films; indeed, sexuality in older people is almost always played for laughs. The instinctive reaction to such conversations quickly gives way to a deep sympathy and understanding due to the director's wonderful talent for gaining great honesty and trust in her subjects. Director Keiko Ibi won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subjects for director Keiko Ibi, and though the film is relatively light-hearded and void of the heavy-handed subject matter of most Academy Award winners in this category, it is her success in soliciting such compelling honesty out of her subjects that no doubt was most responsible for her Academy Award.

I didn't think I would care too much for The Personals, but it only took the introductions of a few subjects for my opinion to change. Keiko Ibi has crafted a sincere, lovely short film out of a subject that nearly any other filmmaker would have turned into a joke, and for this she deserves immense credit. The Personals can be viewed online, and it is very much worth viewing. It can be viewed at:

Remaining: 3157 films, 877 Oscars, 5437 nominations