The British documentary Seven Up originated in 1963 as a 31-minute episode of the highly acclaimed Granada Television series World in Action. Acting upon the venerable Jesuit edict "Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man," director Paul Almond and his young team of assistants randomly selected a group "typical" seven-year-old British children from the ranks of the private-school system. In various locations and situations, the filmmakers interviewed the kids about their backgrounds, their present lives, and their hopes and dreams for the future. Of the interviewees -- ten boys (one of them black), four girls -- six were drawn from the financially strapped working class, four from the privileged upper class, and four from what was vaguely defined as British middle class. Not surprisingly, the upper-class youngters are already reading all the "right" newspapers, carefully plotting out their adult careers, and generally behaving in a patronizing manner to their interviewers. Of the working-class youngsters, East Ender Tony seems to have the clearest vision of what he wanted to do with his life; he intends to be a professional jockey, and is eager and willing to work up the ranks in pursuit of that goal. Viewers who tuned in back in 1963 were most affected by the story of middle-class youngsters Nick, Bruce, and especially Neil, a lonely, sickly looking Liverpudlian lad who aspires to be a tour-bus driver. Intended as a one-shot project, Seven Up took on a life of its own when one of Paul Almond's assistants, 22-year-old Michael Apted, thought it would be fascinating to keep tabs on the 14 children and update their stories at seven-year intervals. With this in mind, Apted -- becoming a full-fledged director himself -- rounded up the kids in 1970 for a follow-up TV documentary, Seven Plus Seven. Thus began what amount to a lifelong creative mission for Michael Apted, yielding such fascinating, and, at times, heartrending filmed studies as 21 Up (1977), 28 Up (1984), 35 Up (1991), and 42 Up (1998).
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