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On call 24/7 for the past six years, three senior citizens have made history by greeting nearly one million U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine. Filled with unexpected turns, their uplifting and emotional journey demonstrates the meaning of community at a time when America needs it most. Written by
A Powerful Story of the Human Struggle with our own Mortality
The Way We Get By had its World Premiere at SXSW in Austin, TX. It is a beautiful film about the lives of 3 senior citizens who volunteer to greet soldiers leaving and returning through Bangor International Airport in Maine. The story is essentially apolitical, and while it starts with their shared experience of the seniors and the soldiers it goes beyond those events to explore the seniors' lives, families, and even their pets. It becomes clear that their work is both an act of kindness and patriotism, but also a simultaneously a search for the meaning and purpose of their lives as they age and struggle with their own mortality in their waning years. The relationship between the soldiers and the greeters is symbiotic as they both benefit from the experience. Ironically, both the young soldiers and the seniors are struggling with their own mortality as ponder the possibility of death. For the seniors this is an imminent fact of life, while the soldiers face a more intangible threat knowing that some of them will not return.
The filming is quite well done as the eloquent and powerful story unfolds and a small world of which most of us are unaware emerges. The human cost of the war is revealed as we see the effects of the separation of war on the soldiers' lives. We are allowed to see both the seniors and the soldiers and as humans. This film deserves a wider audience (which it will get when it runs on PBS's POV), because we all need to understand the human toll of war. The young also need to gain a better understanding of aging which is a subject that we often try not to think about. This film brings together two of the most important challenges that modern America faces war and aging to present us with pain of both of experiences. The film was clearly a labor of love and the film makers' efforts are worthy of recognition for helping create a space for us to confront the meaning of our own lives and attempt to grapple with the meaning of death. The elderly greeters are well-developed and unique characters whom we come to know through the film makers loving embrace of their stories and their struggles.
This is fascinating documentary that deserves a wider audience.
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