To Age or Not to Age: That Is the (Fairly Unexamined) Question


‘I become a serial expert on whatever idea interests me,” explains director Robert Kane Pappas at the beginning of his not-quite-essay film To Age or Not to Age, “then I make a movie about it.” Pappas, who last took on the controlling powers of mass media in 2003’s Orwell Rolls in His Grave here turns a far less critical eye on scientific efforts to retard the aging process. Appearing periodically to offer up his own inchoate musings, Pappas turns most of the screen time over to the scientists who have succeeded in isolating the genes believed to cause aging. The subjects outline the science and the professional issues underlying their research, and there’s a lot of useful information in these densely packed exchanges. They all seem to agree that the extension of human life is a universal positive; disagreements center on just how long it can be extended. Ten years seems a common estimate, but what if, as one researcher suggests, life can be prolonged indefinitely? Too bad Pappas limits any critical perspective on this project to brief, superficial discussions with a handful of wealthy “artists” at their Hamptons homes whose connection to the filmmaker or the documentary’s subject remains unspecified. Only one raises the obvious objection: the irresponsibility of drastically extending life on a planet already crippled by overpopulation.