Michael Apted 1941 – 2021

“I wanna be a jockey…” is a sentence that my wife and I always remember, when we talk about and recall the UP series by Michael Apted, who passed away yesterday. We got acquainted with the series at a festival in Cork, Ireland in the 1990’es, where we could not stop talking about the children, who have been filmed since 1964, 9 episodes, with 7 years in between, and with 63UP as the last one from Apted’s hands, a magnificent piece of documentary film history – about Life lived and about the English class society. The 14 children were chosen from upper and working class, it is fascinating to follow their journeys. Tony (on the poster) had a short carreer as a jockey, went on to become a taxi driver keeping his charm and cockney accent. Andrew became a solicitor, John a barrister – and Bruce, touching Bruce, who from the start wanted to be a missionary « to help the poor people in Africa » and did not think he would ever get married, did get into charity work and did get married and did have children. Jackie, Lynn, Sue are the women in the series, Suzy took also part but did not want to be in the 63UP. In the enormous amount of articles about the series – and also in the films – you often hear the children as grown-ups reflect on what it has meant for them to be on television every seven years. Apted regrets in many interviews the lack of gender equity – and says that made him be very careful when selecting female stars for his many fiction films.

Neil, however, is the most exciting person to follow in the series. A lively energetic kid with a bright future, we assume, leaves the society, wanders around as homeless, has mental problems, but comes back, becomes a politician and wants to help others as his close friend Bruce, who helped him, when he was down. Does voluntary work at the church.

I had the privilege to be a juror with Michael Apted at the Moscow International Film Festival – for the documentary competition when that started in 2011 – with Russian Alexander Gutman as the third man in the jury. We watched 7 films, were invited to stay 10 days in the Russian capital, so my wife and I had lot of time with Apted and his wife Paige Simpson. He was a true English man with the most wonderful voice (as you can hear it in the series) and with a typical sense of humour. Without me saying so the organisers of the festival called me “expert”, which made Apted salute me every morning at breakfast with “Good Morning Expert”.

5 years later we visited Paige and Apted in Venice California in their beautiful funkis house. The 63UP was on its way, the expert and his wife were trying to get information about what had happened since 56UP. A wedding, an illness, a new place to live for the jockey… We have not yet seen the 63UP that came out in 2019. Was that the last episode as Michael Apted is no longer among us? RIP.

“’Give Me the Child Until He Is Seven and I Will Show You the Man’.

You can buy the series on Amazon.




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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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