According to Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Elaine Madsen, society treats women differently after age 65.
“Society tells women of a mature age that you’re supposed to go some place and be quiet,” said Madsen, the mother of “Sideways” star Virginia Madsen and “Kill Bill” actor Michael Madsen. Instead, she and her fellow females have decided to live life to the fullest.
They’re the focus of “I Know a Woman Like That,” a new documentary screening Wednesday as part of a benefit for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival and the Women’s Legacy Fund.
The film features interviews with 16 women ages 65 and older who, according to a news release, “demonstrate complete engagement in their lives, a strong commitment to society and embody an inspirational passion for something they love.” They include feminist author Gloria Steinem, actress Lauren Hutton, entertainer Rita Moreno and poet Maxine Hong-Kingston.
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“There’s a kind of beauty and an energy and a freedom at this age,” Elaine Madsen said, attributes normally not connected with old age. “This film is really about an attitude.”According to Madsen, the concept of “I Know A Woman Like That” arose from a conversation about a dear, departed friend.
“It was a real loss to me because she was so articulate, so engaged in the world just a wonderful, wonderful friend,” Madsen recalled. “I said to my daughter, ‘I hope someday you have a woman just like that in your life,’ and she said, ‘I do, Mom. It’s you.’ ”
When the mother-daughter duo repeated the story, Madsen said, the response was almost universal: “I know a woman like that!”
Backed by her daughter’s Title IV Productions, Madsen set out to learn what made those women tick. Filming started in November 2006 and ended about eight months ago.
Although “I Know A Woman Like That” features a few famous faces, Madsen said she strove to interview ordinary women as well — from the 89-year-old mayor of Evanston, Ill., to a 95-year-old competitive water skier.
All, Madsen said, are strong, independent women who have pursued their dreams against all odds.
“We were ahead of the curve as far as our social and professional lives were concerned,” said the 78-year-old filmmaker, who also appears on screen. “We made opportunities for ourselves.”
An author, screenwriter and playwright, Madsen won an Emmy for her 1983 documentary about the Chicago film industry, “Better Than It Has to Be.”
Madsen and her daughter will attend a sold-out reception Wednesday at a San Luis Obispo restaurant along with two of the women featured in the film, environmentalist activist Lupe Anguiano and philanthropist Valerie Sobel. They’ll also field questions from audience members after the screening at the Fremont Theater.
Virginia Madsen, who earned an Oscar nomination as love interest Maya in 2004’s “Sideways,” is currently filming “The Art of Love” with Aiden Quinn and Olympia Dukakis.
Although “I Know A Woman Like That” has yet to snag a distributor, the film has received rave reviews from critics, including Roger Ebert, who described it “transformative in the way it regards life from the perspective of age.”
“I believe we have something important to say and that we will find our audience,” Elaine Madsen said.
“I Know A Woman Like That” screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Fremont Theater, 1025 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo. Tickets are free, but a $15 donation is suggested. For more information, call 546-3456 or visit www.slofilmfest.org.