By Jessica Duncanson
Open Windows (2014) allows four lesbian women over 70 to tell their stories about love, desire and developments in the LGBT movement. They discuss their relationships, their identity and their feelings about ageing. The documentary explores society’s rejection of sexuality in older life and shows that it is detrimental to the lives of elderly people. While the film documents older lesbian women, it is just as much about general issues surrounding love and desire.
FilmDoo talks to director Michèle Massé.
In general, what inspired your decision to tell the stories of lesbian women over 70?
This was a result of long reflection. After the summer of 2011, I was talking with a close friend about his mother and my father. We were talking about their isolation and loneliness and we wondered about life for older homosexual people. After this discussion, the subject remained in my mind and I decided to investigate about it. This idea was consolidated by the fact that I didn’t know any elderly homosexual people and that I didn’t see them anywhere around me. It was like they had disappeared after a certain age. Then, I moved forward with my work on the subject and decided to concentrate on women, because they are even less visible than the men and I feel closer to them.
These women talk about sex and desire. Was it your intention to try and break through the social stigma surrounding sex in later life?
Yes, it was, because it seems that when you’ve passed 40 years old, you’re no longer “on the market”. And it’s even harder when you’re 70. In the film you can see that the feeling of falling in love is exactly the same at this age, but it’s more difficult to begin a relationship. I think that love is very important in everybody’s life, both the feeling and sexuality. Why do older people have to stop having sex and loving?
The film studies the connection between lesbianism and female sexual liberation. That is, increased public understand of lesbianism worked to show people that women were certainly sexual beings. Is this a theme that is of particular interest to you?
It’s not the main theme of the movie, but I am interested in it and even more so in the case of women of this generation. It’s still very hard for women to have free sexuality, even more so for lesbians, because they are in sexual relationships but without men, which is still very hard for many people to understand.
The film looks at the legalisation of gay marriage in certain countries, how much of an impact do you think changes in the law have on public opinion about LGBT issues?
I think that the legalisation of gay marriage helps people to understand the LGBT population and helps to normalise the situation of LGBT people.
The women in the film discuss how getting older can be harder for LGBT people. For example, retirement homes may be prejudiced towards them, or LGBT people may be more likely to end up alone in later life. How do you think this problem could be tackled?
I think that it’s very important to create structures in which older homosexuals feel good and free to be who they are; a place where they do not feel discriminated. There are some examples now in European countries and in the United States. It’s also important to educate young LGBT people to include older people.
One of the women in the documentary says that activism helps her feel young. Your film could be classed as a kind of activism – do you feel that filmmaking keeps you feeling young?
Filmmaking is synonymous with curiosity, desire, encounters, enthusiasm and energy and going through all of these sensations allows you to stay young, not just to feel it, but to be young.
Watch Open Windows on FilmDoo now!