The conversations of life

Film festival for the Young at Heart


The young at heart – and those who’d like to be – will be excited to hear that Australia’s only film festival programmed for, and in consultation with, film lovers aged 60 and up, is not far away now.

Young at heart film festival
Look out for the 2016 Young at Heart film festival poster

The Young at Heart Seniors Film Festival has unveiled a stellar 2016 program that will roll out in April to Palace Cinemas across Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and – this year, for the first time – Brisbane.

Celebrating its 11th year, the 2016 Young at Heart program will include ten new feature films from the UK, USA, France, Italy, Australia, Ireland, Scandinavia and Japan.  There is also a selection of new Australian short films starring older actors, special events, filmmaker Q&As, and a new digital print of the 1951 classic, A Streetcar Named Desire. Plus filmgoers get to vote for Best Film in the Foxtel Movies Audience Award.

“We sat down with seniors of various ages and ability, film lovers of all cultural backgrounds, and asked them what a Seniors Film Festival should look like.

A specially designed event

If you’re new to the Young at Heart Seniors Film Festival, it is run by non-profit company, The Festivalists, which was founded by film lover and entrepreneur, Mathieu Ravier in 2005 when the young French born film lover and entrepreneur came to Australia.

Ravier says the idea for Young at Heart evolved partly from his childhood experience with his cinema loving French grandparents but also from his experience working in film festivals in Canada and then the UK.  It struck him, he says, that festivals – and cinemas in general – seemed primarily designed for a younger audience.

“And yet it was already obvious that over-60s made up a significant part of the audience,” he says.

“We would have long chats with regular patrons who were older about what they were looking for in a cinema-going experience. I would wonder, what would a film festival look like that was designed with and for seniors?”

“Our tickets start as low as $6 and we show films 7 days a week from 10am.

A diverse audience with diverse needs

Mathieu Ravier Young at Heart
Festival founder, Mathieu Ravier

Young at Heart was The Festivalists’ first event – a small community event held in the Sydney suburb of Randwick in 2006 – and Ravier says that, in many ways, it was an experiment.

“We sat down with seniors of various ages and ability, film lovers of all cultural backgrounds, and asked them what a Seniors Film Festival should look like.

“Seniors are much more diverse, as a demographic, than the image that is communicated to us in mainstream media. The responses were consequently very diverse,” he says.

In developing the festival model, Ravier says there were a number of issues to be considered differently to other film festivals, to ensure that everyone could feel welcome – from active baby boomers who don’t necessarily identify as ‘seniors’, to older visitors who might attend with a carer.

Key considerations were pricing, scheduling and accessibility.

“Our tickets start as low as $6 and we show films 7 days a week from 10am.

“We looked at access, ensuring our cinema venues were accessible to people with low mobility and to those who used a hearing loop. We programmed screenings with open captions for those who were hard of hearing,” he says.

“We looked at all aspects, including communications, learning that many, for example, preferred to receive a hard copy of the program guide in the post rather by email.”  [The festival sends over 5,000 complimentary program guides in the post each year – click here to receive one.]

Programming the festival

The other important design aspect for Young at Heart, was what to include in the program itself.

Streetcar named desire Young at Heart film festival
Marlon Brando sizzles with Vivien Leigh in the 1951 film, Streetcar Named Desire, in new digital release.

“Within the program, we looked as issues of representation, looking out for films which featured fully-rounded and complex older characters, who refused to reduce seniors to a stereotype.

“We wanted to reflect the diversity of our audience by screening features and documentaries from all over the world. While we tend to avoid violent films, we have discovered that this audience – who grew up with cinema – is much more adventurous than sometimes given credit for.

“Beyond the feature films, we began programming short films with seniors in lead roles, and our Senior Talent Award, for Best Actor over the age of 55, is highly sought after,” Ravier said.

Growing momentum

This year’s festival is the biggest to date, being held across six cinemas in four states, and over 100 community screenings in regional towns.

Young at heart film festival
Anthony LaPaglia stars alongside Julia Blake, John Clarke & Justine Clarke in A Month of Sundays

Ravier, now aged 38, says each successive edition of the festival has benefited from feedback from previous events, “until we had an event that seniors loved to call their own.”

“Over the past 11 years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of the attendees and the volunteers who come every year. We have great, passionate conversations about the films that screen at the Festival. Young at Heart has become a social event as well as a cultural one, a place for like-minded film lovers to meet and socialise as well as celebration of cinema,” he said.

What’s on this year?

The program for this year is around families and relationships in the modern world.

“It takes a particular look at the modern family, celebrating the unconventional, complex and ever-changing relationships that bind us together,” says Ravier.

Take a look at this year’s program at this link.

You can read a review of this year’s highlights in Time Out magazine here or make online bookings via the links below.

  • April 1-7: screenings in Sydney (Palace Verona & Norton St) and Canberra(Palace Electric)
  • April 11-17: screenings in Melbourne (Palace Balwyn & Brighton Bay) andBrisbane (Palace Centro)
  • Community screenings of the Young at Heart Short Films take place in Sydney, Western Sydney, across regional NSW and beyond.

Young at Heart seniors film festival partners include Family & Community Services NSW, Screen NSW, Avalon Waterways, Feros Care, National Relay Service, ihear and Foxtel Movies.

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