America’s own version of Michael Apted’s “7 Up” dox (he also produces this series), “Age Seven” is delightful, amusing, sad and, like host Meryl Streep opines, a mirror and a crystal ball on our society. Director Phil Joanou treats the kids with tremendous respect, and the children respond to his questions candidly and openly.
Kids selected for this and future dox come from every socioeconomic level: Alexis from New York’s Upper East Side, Luis from the Lower East Side; Edie from tranquil rural Georgia, LeRoy from violent Chicago housing projects; Vicki from lower-middle-class Catholic Chi, Salina from a Chinese-immigrant L.A. neighborhood.
The questions put to them are questions that kids always get asked: What do you want to be when you grow up? What would you do if you were rich?
And other queries are tougher and the answers more revealing of parental and societal mores: What is the difference between white and black people? Do you believe in God? Is there crime in your neighborhood?
The crime question elicited a chilling response from Kennisha and LeRoy, who both live in a deteriorating housing project. With guileless innocence, the kids talk about how they’ve seen people smoke crack and that gunfire is common.
Each child is articulate, and doc doesn’t put words into their mouths. What they do not say is just as revealing as what they do say about the state of America.
Very smartly made, “Age Seven” puts a human face on stereotypes, which is valuable service for audiences of all ages.