What producer and director Stu Maddux accomplishes with his documentary “Gen Silent” is remarkable, as he shines a light on six otherwise voiceless senior citizens struggling to find acceptance.
The six subjects of Maddux’s documentary are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), and dealing with the pain of being unacknowledged by the world around them. The film’s subjects are all based out of Massachusetts, an area of the country known for its acceptance of homosexuals. The film reveals how much different being an elderly member of the LGBT community is from being a young person growing up in this current generation.
The documentary makes abundantly clear that its goal is to give a voice to a generation of LGBT seniors who fought for their freedom for decades, but are now dying alone. The film states that as many as two thirds of LGBT elders are living alone in this country until they pass away, a staggering number in comparison to their straight counterparts.
Maddux is able to capture the pain of the six subjects by following them through the trials of their senior years. A gay man in his 60s has to drive back and forth from his empty home to a hospital where his dying partner is relying on assisted living, but not getting very responsive care because of a lack of understanding of his needs. A lesbian partnership is struggling to find purpose in a community that reaps the benefit of a more liberal society without paying homage to the elders who suffered through the McCarthy era and the persecutions of their youth. A bisexual man deals with his lover passing away after a 39 year relationship that they both hid from the world. A transgender female (was born as a male), that has completely lost touch with her family because they could not accept her change, is dying of lung cancer and does not want to die alone.
The country’s elders should not die alone; they should receive equal and sufficient care in medical facilities and they should not feel like they have to hide their lovers or their own sexual orientation from the world out of fear. Maddux does a very good job of using real stories to present a very large problem in American society.
“This movie is about younger people learning from older people, because it is very difficult for our generation to get that perspective, and soon it will be gone,” Maddux said. “The older generation is invisible, silent. This movie has become a driving force to finally give a generation a voice.”
As the documentary unfolds, Maddux is able to capture incredibly poignant and sometimes unfavorable moments for the subjects. Maddux believes that sometimes it feels “inappropriate” to have a camera in the room during these times, but says that “the lives touched by (the subject’s) legacy is more important.”
The documentary, almost entirely shot with a single director of photography, who was also Maddux, is very personable. The film allows the audience to become introduced to the subjects in a genuine way, and to exit the film with their stories ready to share with the world. For one and a half hours, the audience is exposed to the common understanding of Maddux’s goal and the audience learns important lessons on what it truly means to be accepting.