“Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.” Thus begins the premise of 7-UP, a documentary directed by Paul Almond in 1964. Almond interviewed fourteen British schoolchildren from three different social classes, gauging their views about social class and gender, and questioning them about their future expectations regarding marriage, family, and career. Michael Apted, a crew member on the original film, decided to interview the same children seven years later to see if their views had changed. The documentary was so stunning that Apted has revisited these same people every seven years (49-UP is the most recent installment), asking them about their lives, their families, their jobs, and their children. The entire series provides an amazing window into the developmental process.
I watched the series on sequential evenings last summer while visiting my parents. Despite the fact that we all have different tastes in film, the three of us could hardly wait to watch each installment. As each human being continued to unfold before our eyes like a flower filmed in high speed motion, we worried about some of the people, rejoiced for others, and were quite surprised by some of the changes. I don’t know of any other medium that has so well captured the developmental process of a human being over the course of so many years. Any film in this series, as well as the series as a whole, makes a wonderful classroom tool for psychologists, sociologists, and educators.
Has the original premise of the film held up to scrutiny? It has in some ways, but it could not be known in 1964 that many social movements would arise later in that very era, prompting individuals to question indoctrinated assumptions about class, race and gender. Although today in Great Britain, the class system remains quite intact, the individuals who are portrayed in the UP SERIES are less deeply affected by it than they would have been in previous eras.
- Cathy Evans