Last week I watched the pre-release version of "Witness to a Century," a documentary produced by the Virginia Historical Society and WCVE public television which will air Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. It features excerpts of interviews with a dozen or so Virginian centenarians, several of whom attended the screening at the VHS. Additionally, narration and photos lead viewers through the 20th century.
The interviewees' personal stories--which include simple recollections of using a hand-operated washing machine ("better than a washboard!") as well as accounts of housing and job discrimination-- are fascinating, but not particularly unique. The value of the project is in the sound and sight of the actual interviews. So much was said between the words, in the glance downward after a sentence, the pause before a carefully chosen phrase.
I love reading oral histories, but man--hearing and seeing them is so much better. If you, like I, are not much of a TV watcher and miss the documentary the first time around, you might be able to check it out of a library next year, since plans are in the works to sell it as a DVD.