We’re the generation that went BOOM between 1946 and 1964– and the noise hasn’t stopped since. From Billy Joel to Maria Shriver, Samuel L. Jackson to Rosie O’Donnell and Deepak Chopra, the last of us is turning “50” and PBS is set to air a documentary highlighting 19 famous boomers who’ve shaped the world!
AMERICAN MASTERS: The Boomer List by filmmaker/photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders airs Tuesday, September 23 at 9 p.m and unfolds over 90 minutes in a series of video snapshots– short, pithy revelatory mini bios, one for every year of the baby boom:
1946 Tim O’Brien, Vietnam vet / author
1947 Deepak Chopra, M.D., New Age guru
1948 Samuel L. Jackson, actor
1949 Billy Joel, singer-songwriter
1950 Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer
1951 Tommy Hilfiger, fashion designer
1952 Amy Tan, author
1953 Eve Ensler, playwright
1954 Julieanna Richardson, founder, The HistoryMakers
1955 Maria Shriver, journalist
1956 Kim Cattrall, actor
1957 Virginia Rometty, CEO, IBM
1958 Ellen Ochoa, Director, Johnson Space Center
1959 Ronnie Lott, athlete
1960 Erin Brockovich, environmentalist
1961 Peter Staley, AIDS activist
1962 Rosie O’Donnell, entertainer
1963 David LaChapelle, artist
1964 John Leguizamo, actor
The results are a remarkably revealing mirror of who boomers are– and what we did. Each subject is seated in front of a blank canvas, and directly addresses the camera as his or her personal story takes center stage. We learn how they grew up, what drives them, and what pivotal moments made them who they are. We hear how Billy Joel writes a song, how “Sex and the City’s” Kim Cattrall feels about wrinkles, why Maria Shriver’s childhood friends hesitated to visit her Kennedy-esque household, how Erin Brockovich learned to stand her ground, where Rosie got her sense of humor and addressed her homosexuality.
These stories tumble out in quick succession, briskly edited to distill the essence of each personality, but also widening out to give us a lens on the larger issues of the day: AIDS, Vietnam, and equal rights across race, gender, class, sexuality, all played out in the world of politics, media, sports, technology and more. What emerges is a picture of not only who the boomer generation is, but also the feeling of the era that shaped them, and the threads that run through it: a trailblazing spirit, a “can-do” optimism, and a fierce desire to move forward and change the world. By the end I wanted even more. There’s a tantalizing series of photos of other well-known boomers that scrolls across the screen in between each subject: Christopher Reeve, Sting, Kathy Bates, Anjelica Huston, Steven Spielberg, Jamie Lee Curtis–anyone of whom I’d love to hear from.
A DVD of the film and a coffee table book featuring portraits of the film’s subjects will be available October 1. Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits will also be on exhibition at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. through July 5, 2015. But first watch AMERICAN MASTERS: THE BOOMER LIST premiering nationwide on 9/23 at 9PM on PBS– check your local listings!