PBS Doc: The Boomer List Spotlights a Generation
TALKING ABOUT THE BOOMERS: As the last of the Baby Boomers turns 50 in 2014, filmmaker and portrait photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders marks the milestone in the new PBS documentary, “American Mas- ters: The Boomer List.” Premiering nationwide on PBS on Tuesday, the latest work from the director of “The Out List,” “The Black List” and “The Latino List” ventures into the lives of 19 noteworthy Boomers — among them singer-songwriter Billy Joel, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, Apple Computer cofounder Steve Wozniak, envi- ronmentalist Erin Brockovich, AIDS activist Peter Staley, journalist Maria Shriver, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and Vietnam vet and author Tim O’Brien.
“Putting this film together was like building a Rubik’s Cube in the dark,” Greenfield-Sanders said. “It was much more complicated than the lists I’ve done before.”
In choosing the 19 subjects — each of whom was born in one year from 1946 to 1964 — Greenfield-Sanders found himself performing a balancing act between male and female candidates, ethnic diversity and professions. “My biggest problem was that there were so many people who could have been filmed for this project,” he said. “Take 1946, for example. In that one year, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were born. So were Liza Minnelli, Patti Smith, Oliver Stone, Reggie Jackson, Naomi Judd, Cher, Steven Spielberg and Tim O’Brien, not to mention many other well-known figures. Picking one person when there are so many great individuals to choose from is tough.”
Greenfield-Sanders chose O’Brien because he felt that he could best address the war in Vietnam and coming of age during that time in U.S. history.
He selected designer Hilfiger (b. 1951) because of his rise in the fashion industry from humble origins. “He’s my Horatio Alger story in the mix,” he said.
Greenfield-Sanders was also surprised by Joel’s desire to live up to his parents’ expectations. “It was a real con- trast between the image of a famous rocker and a guy who cared what his parents thought,” he said.
Greenfield-Sanders portraits from “The Boomer List” will be included in a companion coffee-table book slated for release on Oct. 1 by Luxury Press. His portraits will also be part of an exhibition at the Newseum in Washing- ton. “The Boomer List: Photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders” opens on Sept. 25 and will be on display until June 30.