Film Feature: “Off The Rocker”

Vitality is timeless. As in, yeah, old people have wrinkles. But they also have sex, pump iron and hit nightspots dancing, apparently.

“When you focus on a subject documentary-wise you really learn a lot about human relationships,” says Matthew Bardocz, director, editor and co-producer of “Off the Rocker,” a film recounting the experience of a group of vivacious seniors enjoying Las Vegas nightlife.

“Off the Rocker” is set to screen at the D.C. Independent Film Festival Thursday in the 8:30 p.m. screening block. The film was previously named “Best of Nevada” feature at last summer’s Las Vegas International Film Festival.

Valuable lessons learned by Bardocz? Older people can be active, films take work and issues/gripes/experiences surrounding sex are timeless. “It’s funny because when we look at senior sexuality, we really only look at the humor about it,” Bardocz said, extrapolating on what seems a primary aim of the film: playfully and honestly challenging stereotypes.

“Off the Rocker” was originally conceived after Bardocz engaged in a three-hour dinner conversation with Annette DiStefano, his wife’s agent’s mother, and her core group of friends. Bardocz learned that DiStefano was a social ringleader among her peers, who belonged to a broader group of 300 or so seniors who spent five nights a week dancing to “quintessential” Vegas act the Jerry Tiffe Trio. Apparently, Tiffe previously opened for members of the Rat Pack, and has been a staple of the Vegas lounge scene.

“Off the Rocker” marks Bardocz’s first major directing effort and medium-format film. Previously, he worked as a gaffer and lighting technician for films like “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) and the recently released “Walk Hard” (2007).

“I really wanted to capture a moment,” he said. This was a “moment” that came after twenty days of filming, six months of cutting and some time waiting for music rights to come through. Bardocz is careful to make a distinction: “It’s funny in the sense that the humor comes from them. It doesn’t make fun of them.”

Bardocz continues this thought in a written personal statement: “I discovered a group of seniors who are not only fiercely independent but who have also found their fountain of youth. In doing so they have created a tight knit social community against the backdrop of one of the flashiest, transient, youth-oriented places on earth – Las Vegas.”

The film’s title itself does enough to suggest the vitality Bardocz observed. According to Bardocz, the seniors he filmed were not only out dancing five nights a week, but up at 4:30 a.m., swimming, running or lifting weights.

“To me, once I became more and more familiar with their spirit, it became more and more important to me to share their story with people. I shot this film two-and-a-half-years ago and these people are still doing these things,” he said. “These people break that rocking chair stereotype.”

Bardocz will be in D.C. for the screening of his film. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Christine Blackburn, an actress and the film’s co-producer, and his infant daughter, Alabama.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.