Maggie GrowlsThe Film
The Film

Maggie Grrr

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to use animation. But luckily, our brilliant animators, Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, helped us over that hurdle. We picked segments we thought should be animated, often based on the fact that we had no b-roll to cover them. Paul and Sandra, however, had higher standards for selecting: they did not allow us to use the animation for any kind of literal ´re-enactment═ or storytelling. They persisted until we gave them segments that would take the viewer inside the psyches of the characters. And of course they were right: the kind of animation they do best is a sort of fantastic departure from reality, which takes the words of the story to a far deeper level than a literal animation ever could.

Old age is not a disease - it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses. Power should not be concentrated in the hands of so few, and powerlessness in the hands of so many.

Speak your mind even if your voice shakes, for well-aimed slingshots can topple giants. -Maggie Kuhn, 1905-1995

MAGGIE GROWLS is a documentary film portrait by Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater of the amazing, canny, lusty, charming and unstoppable Maggie Kuhn (1905-1995), who founded the Gray Panthers in 1970 after being forced to retire from a job she loved. Her outrage and determination fueled a political chain reaction that forever changed the lives of older Americans, repealing mandatory retirement laws and proving that "old" is not a dirty word. Out of what political activist Ralph Nader called "the most significant retirement in modern American history," Maggie created one of the most potent social movements of the century - one that was committed to justice, peace and fairness to all, regardless of age.

Maggie Kuhn was never afraid to march to her own beat and fight for what she believed. Born in Buffalo in 1905, she was a passionate social activist right from the start. Maggie entered the workplace in 1926, with a job at the YWCA in Cleveland, organizing poor and working women. In 1950, she began a 20-year stint in the Social Education and Action Office of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. It was a job she adored, one that kept her in the forefront of the social activist movement for decades. When she turned 65 and was forced to give up the career she loved, Maggie decided that she would not fade away quietly. Saying "don't agonize, organize," and reminding them that they had nothing to lose, she galvanized a group of friends and colleagues who had also been put prematurely out to pasture and launched the career for which she is renowned: as founder and leader of the Gray Panthers.

Maggie's second career unfolded in television appearances with Johnny Carson; on Capitol Hill, chiding senators and congressmen; and on the picket line, fighting injustice for all people, wherever she could. She also spoke fondly of her many love affairs and close friendships. Maggie's insistence on talking publicly about sex, which often made her listeners squirm, lead to a serious re-thinking about what growing old was all about. As Maggie said, "Sex and learning end only when rigor mortis sets in."

In an era replete with "movements," the media quickly latched onto Maggie. Looking like the stereotypical sweet little old lady, when Maggie spoke, people listened. With a disarming mixture of humor, shock value and common sense, Maggie deftly used her high visibility to combat media stereotypes that denigrated the elderly and went on to champion universal health care, nursing home reform, shared housing and consumer protection. MAGGIE GROWLS looks at the forces that shaped the movement as well as its leader, using Maggie's life as a lens through which to examine the intertwined issues of social reform and aging in America.

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