How to Live Forever
Filmmaker Mark Wexler’s new documentary “How to Live Forever” is a thought provoking, inspiring, funny and, ultimately life affirming, kaleidoscopic look at how long some people have lived and how long we might expect to live in the future. Wexler traveled the world, over a period of three years, compiling 150 hours of footage shot between 2006 and 2009. Wexler and editor Robert DeMaio have distilled the footage into a very efficiently told travelogue in which Wexler meets everyone from 94-year-old exercise king Jack LaLane, to comedian Phyllis Diller, 90, to Shigeo Tokuda, 74, a Japanese “elderporn” star who has made over 200 films featuring older cast members. Actress, author and “Thigh Master” pitch woman Suzanne Somers, 61, extols the virtues of hormone replacement while Buster Martin, a 101-year-old marathon runner in England, talks about smoking since age seven and taking breaks in his marathon running to have a cigarette and a beer. A member of the scientific/medical community claims that in 10 years medical breakthroughs will essentially eliminate aging in humans, while another expert dismisses life extension as narcissistic.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Wexler who told me about the origins of his idea for “How to Live Forever.” “I’ve always been interested in health and longevity and my own health,” Wexler explained. “When I turned 50 my Mom passed away and my AARP card arrived in the mail and that sort of got me thinking about ‘Is this it? Can I pack some more years into my life?’ The dream of immortality is as old as mankind and has a special allure for baby boomers like myself. So I thought maybe there is a chance to add a whole other chapter to one’s life and maybe I could live to be 200 or longer.”
Wexler explained that he found his subjects by cruising the internet, as well as from referrals and by doing a lot of reading. “When you choose somebody and they’re half way around the world you have to figure out if they’re going to be good on camera. So I often have a couple of minutes conversation with them on the phone just to feel out whether this is going to work before I fly half way around the world.”
Concerning the three years it took to shoot the film, Wexler explained that he worked on the project on and off while financing it himself. “Documentaries take a long time, to follow particular subjects. So, you have to really pick a subject that you’re passionate about…That’s what set me off on this exploration all over the world and talking to septuagenarians and comedians and scientists and elder porn stars and the whole gamut of people.”
I asked Wexler if he did make it to age 200 what would he do with all that time and would he continue making documentaries. He replied, “I don’t know. Some days I think maybe I’ll just become an organic farmer or park cars or something, something less stressful…I really can’t complain. I feel very blessed to be able to make these kinds of films and make films on subjects that interest me.”
When asked how making “How to Live Forever” has changed his life, Wexler said, “I hope the movie inspires people, including myself, to live life to their fullest in the moment. Despite our best efforts we may not be able to live forever but at least we can live well. I’m a huge worrier…and I hope by noticing that, maybe I’ll worry a little less. I also worry that I worry.”
“How to Live Forever” opens on Friday May 13, at the Quad, 34 West 13th Street.
“How to Live Forever,” director Mark Wexler, 2011,
Varaince Film, 94 minutes, no rating