The Film
Summary Characters Creative Approach

Characters

Granny Power is the portrait of a movement, and as such features Raging Grannies from several ‘gaggles’, as they call their local chapters. Our main characters are from the U.S. and Canada. We see them in action, often doing rather surprising things for women their age. But we also get to know them on a more personal level and be with them as they confront the many challenges of remaining active at a very advanced age.
Muriel Duckworth, who died three years ago at the age of 100, spent the winter half of the year in Halifax which has a maritime climate, and the warmer months in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. She was widely respected as a sort of elder stateswoman by Canada’s peace and feminist movements. In her last years, most of her still intense activism took place over the phone, or while receiving visitors in her home. But she occasionally ventured out in a wheelchair to speak at church meetings or conferences. We spent five years filming with Muriel (our DOP’s mother) before she died. In the film we see her receiving her 10th honorary doctorate, this one from St. Mary’s University in Halifax, and celebrating her 100th birthday. Muriel lost a brother in the air battles of the First World War, and she speaks with emotion and a great clarity of ideas about war and peace, as well as about the role of the Granny movement.
Alma Norman of Ottawa is 89. a moving spirit of the Ottawa Raging Grannies, one of the most important gaggles in Canada as the country’s capital is a natural location for many political protests – not least under a Conservative government, as has been the case since 2006.

Alma is very creative, and she is fearless. She is always thinking about new actions to take around current issues. And she does a lot of thinking about the challenges of remaining active as a citizen in old age, in spite of health issues and diminishing energy levels. Alma is in better health than her husband, and she worries a lot about how she would manage were she to become a widow. To her, the Raging Grannies are like a second family, and she relies a lot on their support.

Alma can be seen participating in an exciting action at Montebello, Quebec. As presidents Bush of the U.S. and Calderon of Mexico meet with Canadian Prime Minister Harper and handpicked corporate CEO’s at Château Montebello, the Ottawa Raging Grannies join other protesters outside, sing their songs and do a dance routine. Chased from the scene by riot police, they make another attempt to be heard, on day two of the summit, paddling down the Ottawa River to join the assembled dignitaries for tea – bringing cookies of course, in true granny style. They cheer as they are met by army and police helicopters.
Molly Klopot, 93, the founder of the New York Grannies, was one of the organizers of the October 2006 blockade of a U.S. army recruiting station at Times Square which led to the arrest and trial of 18 grandmothers. We followed Molly and her co-conspirators through the trials and tribulations of their court case, which ended six months later at the Manhattan Criminal Court, with an acquittal and a victory celebration. As with all our key characters, we get to know Molly on a more personal level. A ‘red diaper baby’, she talks about her lifelong commitment to labor politics and fighting for the underdog. She tells us how much songs and singing mean to protest movements in general and to the Grannies in particular: they create solidarity, a sense of fun, a blanket of safety and a method of defusing violence and tension, as well as providing information.

Since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Granny movement in the U.S. has really taken off. In order to illustrate the growth of the movement and the way it spreads through informal networking and internet-assisted word-of-mouth, we focus on campaigns outside army recruitment centers where Grannies offer to sign up for service in place of their grandchildren.
This idea, which originated in Victoria, B.C. at the time of the Gulf War, was picked up by the Raging Grannies in Tucson, Arizona last year. We have actual video material of the Grannies inside the army recruiting station, bringing cookies and singing for bewildered recruitment officers.

Connie Graves, 63 of Tucson, was one of the organizers of that action. A member of a proud military family, she is also a genealogist and can enumerate the ancestors she had in practically every war the U.S. has been involved in. Her father for one, was in Korea and at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. Connie explains how grannying is a way to deal with the shame she feels over the U.S. role in Iraq and Afghanistan. Articulate and funny, Connie is also a prolific songwriter
Barbara Calvert Seifred was rather shy until she sprang into action against the nuclear menace some 20 years ago – and what action! 3000 Granny songs later, she is an unstoppable creative force, rhyming furiously to bring to light injustices of all kinds, travelling whenever she can to take a stand with activists of all stripes. She is also a fashion designer and trained seamstress, the artist behind the beautiful, eloquent banners that grace many protests. With her feather duster proudly fastened to her Granny hat, Barbara is a gentle presence with a fierce intellect and a scathing wit.
The film also features a member of the Montreal-based, French-speaking Mémés Déchaînées. They are the main focus of a shorter French-language television production Magnus Isacsson made, entitled Les Super-Mémés. Their founding member Louise-Édith Hébert shows how the group brings a greater community orientation and focus on issues of aging and ‘agism’ to their actions. They are sick and tired of the way the elderly are treated and are determined to do something about it. An inspirational presence at conferences for the elderly, the Mémés déchaînées make the rounds of seniors’ clubs and residences where they perform short plays and lead workshops.


The film also foregrounds some of the founders of the movement, two of whom are still active in Victoria. Twenty-five years ago, women of a certain age played a key role in the peace movement in B.C. but they were rarely listened to. Betty Brightwell and Fran Thoburn describe how they searched for new ways to make themselves heard, how they were influenced by street theatre, and how they came to start the Raging Grannies. We were there to document the 20th and 25th anniversary celebrations in Victoria in 2007 and 2012.