P.O.V.’s “Following Sean” Rewinds to 1960s Haight-Ashbury, Fast-Forwards to the Present, Tuesday, July 31 on PBS
Summary: The P.O.V. series (a cinema term for “point of view”) celebrates its 20th year on PBS in 2007. P.O.V. is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series. P.O.V. is broadcast Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (check local listings), June through September on PBS, with primetime specials in the fall and winter.
Airdate: P.O.V.’s Following Sean by Ralph Arlyck airs Tuesday, July 31 at 10 p.m. on PBS. (Check local listings.)
Description: Thirty years after making a celebrated student short about a four-year-old child of free spirits living in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district at the height of the 1960s, Ralph Arlyck attempts the kind of revelation only documentary film can provide. In Following Sean, he goes in search of the impish, barefoot kid who delighted or horrified audiences, reflecting the hopes and fears of a turbulent, utopian era. In discovering what has become of Sean, Arlyck finds a complex reality — and experiences pure cinematic surprise. As the filmmaker comes to grips with his own midlife conflicts, Following Sean may reveal as much about Arlyck and his generation as it does his subject.
What had happened to the 4-year-old boy whom Arlyck had followed in 1969, two years after the “Summer of Love?” Back then, Arlyck’s candid camera and Sean Farrell’s precocious thoughts on pot smoking, police presence and a freewheeling, unshod life in San Francisco had sent the film “Sean” on an international round of screenings (including the White House) and press uproars rarely accorded a student film.
Viewers saw in “Sean” their best hopes or worst fears. Would Sean grow up to exemplify a “hippie” vision of freedom? Or would he turn out to be a drug addict or stockbroker?
Filmmaker’s Statement: “Most of us are constantly trying to figure out what we can claim for ourselves versus what we owe our families — the ones we live with, the ones that created us and the ones that will continue after us,” says Ralph Arlyck. “That was what was so wonderful about going back and finding Sean and the people around him, to see how an atypical American family — don’t forget we’re talking about hippies, commies and other ‘fringe elements’ — can still represent major currents of what was happening in America then, and still happens today.”
Biography: Ralph Arlyck, Director/Producer
Ralph Arlyck’s film work includes “Current Events,” which was selected Best Documentary at the Atlanta Film Festival and aired on PBS and the BBC; “An Acquired Taste,” regarded as a classic of the personal-essay genre; and the acclaimed “Godzilla Meets Mona Lisa,” a whimsical tour of Paris’ Pompidou Center. He has won awards at Sundance, the New York and London Film Festivals, the Prix Italia and other gatherings. Arlyck has been a prominent advocate for American independent producers, twice testifying before Congress and once before the Carnegie Commission on the importance of independent filmmakers to public television’s mission. He writes on production issues for several media journals. A former member of the Board of INPUT, the international television seminar, Arlyck is a member of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers (AIVF), and a long-standing participant in the distribution cooperative New Day Films.
Arlyck received a bachelor’s degree in English from Colgate University and a master of science from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., with his wife, Elisabeth, who teaches at Vassar College. He has taught film production at Vassar, the State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo and SUNY Purchase.
Festivals: San Francisco International Film Festival, 2006
Rotterdam Film Festival, 2006
Hamptons International Film Festival, 2006
Director/Producer: Ralph Arlyck
Producer/Editor: Malcolm Pullinger
Cinematography: Ralph Arlyck, Tomas Tucker
Sound Recording: Dan Gleich
Sound Production: Marshall Grupp, Keith Renaud
Original Music: Eric Neveux
Following Sean is a co-presentation with KQED/Truly California.
P.O.V. Web: The Following Sean companion Web site (www.pbs.org/pov/followingsean) offers a streaming video trailer of the film, an interview with filmmaker Ralph Arlyck (video, podcast and text); a list of related Web sites, organizations and books; a downloadable discussion guide and classroom activity; and this special feature:
“Sean” Short Film - August Exclusive: Watch the original 1969 short that inspired Following Sean after the broadcast on July 31 and throughout the month of August 2007, exclusively on the P.O.V. Web site. Sean's casual commentary on everything from smoking pot to living with speed freaks was delivered in simple sincerity throughout the famous 15-minute film. Find out why François Truffaut, whose own film “The Wild Child” shared a bill with the short at the 1970 London Film Festival enthused, "Sean's truly a kid of our modern times."
Outreach: P.O.V. is working with public television stations and national and community-based groups across the country to foster community dialogue around the issues presented in Following Sean. For a list of upcoming screening and discussion events, go to http://www.amdoc.org/outreach_news.php.
Cari Ladd has created the lesson plan. In addition, the American Library Association and P.O.V. have created a multimedia resource list of related fiction and nonfiction books and videos that further explore the issues. The materials are available free of charge at www.pbs.org/pov/outreach.
P.O.V.: Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and celebrating its 20th season on PBS in 2007, the award-winning P.O.V. series is the longest-running showcase on television to feature the work of America's best contemporary-issue independent filmmakers. Airing on PBS on Tuesdays at 10 p.m., June through September, with primetime specials during the year, P.O.V. has brought more than 250 documentaries to millions nationwide, and has a Webby Award-winning online series, P.O.V.'s Borders. Since 1988, P.O.V. has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today's most pressing social issues. More information about P.O.V is available at www.pbs.org/pov.
Major funding for P.O.V. is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, PBS and public television viewers. Funding for P.O.V.'s Diverse Voices Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with additional support from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the official sponsor of P.O.V.'s 20th Anniversary Campaign. P.O.V. is presented by a consortium of PBS stations including KCET Los Angeles, WGBH Boston, and Thirteen/WNET New York.