Winter at Westbeth

Winter at Westbeth

(2015)

Australian documentarian Rohan Spong explores the vibrant characters of the elderly residents dwelling in New York's Westbeth Artists Housing.... More

"From 1970 onwards, Westbeth Artists Housing in Manhattan's Far West Village became a creative experiment. Formerly the offices of the company spawned by inventor Alexander Graham Bell, the site threw open its doors to New York's artistic community, offering dancers, poets and everyone in between a place to live and work.

"Australian filmmaker Rohan Spong's poignant follow up to 2011's All the Way Through Evening, Winter at Westbeth is steeped in the history of the arts in the city, and splashed with colour from the dynamic real-life characters profiled and the bright hues they choose to wear." (Melbourne International Film Festival)Hide

  • Directed by Rohan Spong ('All the Way Through Evening', 'T is for Teacher')

Flicks Review

Docos featuring greying, wrinkled seniors living their twilight to the fullest haven’t exactly been in short supply in recent years. Films such as Young@Heart, Bill Cunningham New York, Hip Hop-eration, Iris and Herb & Dorothy all inspire and uplift in their emphasis on the youthful vibrancy of their subjects. Rohan Spong’s Winter at Westbeth taps into similar age-transcending territory.... More

A moving, intimately-scaled, year-long chronicle of three elderly artists living at a rent-controlled residency in New York’s West Village, the film contributes further proof that there are folks over 70 who aren’t just sitting around, waiting to make their deathbeds, but bursting with creativity, passion and a lust for life. Folks like Westbeth’s vivacious trio: Edith Stephens (95), a former dancer-turned-documentarian; Ilsa Gilbert (82), a cancer-surviving poet and writer; Dudley Williams (75), a dancer preparing for a stage comeback.

Winter at Westbeth works as a fine tribute to the apartment complex’s legacy: previously the Bell Laboratories, home to many 20th century tech innovations, this “experiment in public housing” has, over 40 years, evolved into a communal haven for artistic expression to thrive. But more touching is the thread of restless drive that connects Stephens, Gilbert, and Williams, all of whom have had to overcome their share of adversity and loss to continue their creative pursuits. Their energy is infectious, and candid, storied recollections are absorbing.

Even if one were to cast doubt on, say, Stephens’ decidedly amateurish foray into politically charged filmmaking, it’s difficult to deny the emotional pull of their unyielding quest: the defiance of mortality’s looming pall by bolstering their fecund minds.Hide


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The Press Reviews

  • Spending four seasons roaming this retired artists’ complex is such a delight that viewers will find themselves yearning for future installments. Full Review

  • Spong captures the lust for life in his subjects and, particularly in the case of Williams, their heartfelt memories, while celebrating the Westbeth as a triumph of public housing and community infrastructure. Full Review