Florida Film Festival
Chekhov for Children
Directed by: SASHA WATERS FREYER
USA, 2010, 72 MIN
Memories of 5th and 6th grade don’t often revolve around being in a full-length production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, a classic work about grappling with the regrets and vanished hopes of middle age. At New York’s P.S. 75 in 1979, ambitious and sometimes pretentious writer-in-residence Philip Lopate engaged students in an intensive and unique immersion into an arts experience only the most seasoned professionals typically dare to attempt. Over the course of 30 years, the experience continues to have a firm hold on the minds of its youthful participants, now in their 40s, including filmmaker Sasha Waters Freyer, who was a member of the cast herself. Through a nostalgic mix of grainy super-8 footage and modern-day reminiscences, it is clear the distance between the longings of 19th Century Russians and 20th Century children is not as absurdly far as one might imagine. In many ways reminiscent of Michael Apted’s remarkable 7-Up series, CHEKHOV FOR CHILDREN captures and reflects on a unique educational experiment and is a fascinating and heartfelt time capsule.