Estelle “Stella” Craig is 95 and one of the most fascinating women I’ve come across in a long time. She is the subject of a documentary aptly titled STELLA IS 95, directed by her daughter, Robin Baker Leacock. The film follows her around in her daily activities in her Toronto retirement community and allows her to candidly talk about her life as an event planner, writer, and community leader.
Over the years, Stella has founded the Cinema 16 Film Festival, a precursor to the Toronto International Film Festival; brought several noteworthy speakers to the Toronto area; and written two books, As I Was Saying: People Places and Things and Under the Circumstances: How to meet celebrities without leaving home. She’s hardly slowed down in her “old age”: she helped revitalize a local park in memory of her late husband and writes and directs plays with the help of members of her community. She’s kept up with technology on her iPad and even has a Twitter account. She keeps moving because she can, and hey, why the heck shouldn’t she?
The film has a very home movie-esque feel, with some scenes shot on Leacock’s cell phone, which makes it all the more endearing. The film brought me back to the days when I would visit my older relatives in Toronto and hear the stories of all the people and things they’ve encountered in their lives. Living to see your 95th birthday is an accomplishment in itself, but this film taught me that it’s what you do with those 95 years and the attitude that you maintain that really counts. In the final scene of the film, Leacock interviews residents of Stella’s community and none of them claim to feel “old.” They may have a few more wrinkles, but they’re as enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness as they were when they were 10 years old.
STELLA IS 95 airs on PBS affiliates throughout the month of November. Sit down and watch this one with your family, as it’s sure to be a conversation starter. Check your local listings for more information.