'Walter' to kick off VTX Film Festival
Jennifer Lee Preyss
March 21, 2014 at 7:03 p.m.
Updated March 21, 2014 at 10:22 p.m.
What's the meaning of life?
Ask independent film director Hunter Weeks and his wife, Sarah, and they may have an answer.
So, too, might one of the filmmakers' handful of supercentenarians - people 110 years and older - interviewed in Weeks' recent indie release, "Walter."
The film is the first this year to debut at the 2014 Victoria TX Independent Film Festival, scheduled April 3-6, competing with dozens of other international indie films premiering throughout the weekend.
After an encounter with the world's oldest man, Walter Breuning, of Montana, Weeks decides to travel the world with then-fiancee Sarah documenting life lessons learned from the elderly.
Weeks also spends much of his time with Walter during what would become the last few months of Walter's life.
"The first time I met him, the whole hour I spent with him was incredible. I was pretty nervous. ... I was thrilled he was still alive," Weeks said, mentioning Walter's ability to communicate well without much assistance. "He could remember dates and events really well, and I just thought this needs to be preserved somehow."
The film also chronicles the real-life relationship of Weeks and Sarah and the love that matures between them while making the movie.
As they interview their "Supers," a nickname for supercentenarians, they grow into a better understanding of what the future holds for them as a married couple - and what's important in life.
"There definitely was an element of facing my own mortality and realizing I'd like to achieve certain things and leave behind a meaningful legacy for my loved ones," Sarah said. "That being said, I also (now) appreciate the little things and try to enjoy the fleeting moments of wonder that often go unnoticed in our hyperspeed world."
Some of the stories Walter recalls are his memories of the Titanic sinking, the 1929 stock market crash and both world wars.
"I realized he was 33 years old when I interviewed him about the stock market crash in 1929 and that I was the same age as he was when that happened," Weeks said. "He was talking about Congress spending all this money and saying that it was really severe, so much worse than what we experienced a few years ago."
Weeks describes the film as a beautiful illustration of the lottery of life and how the truest forms of happiness manifest through love, service and relationships.
"One of the themes we heard a lot was that the best thing you can do in life is to help people," he said. "I think we'll look back on these simple lessons for the rest of our lives."