A former horse farmer, actress, businesswoman, college teacher, and nun, Christine Burton was 72 years old, and increasingly lonely living in upstate New York, when a lesbian networking service returned her application and check with a note: “Have you made a mistake about your date of birth? Nobody wants to meet lesbians older than 50.” Rather than admit defeat, Burton turned rejection into inspiration, launching Golden Threads several years later after turning 80, with the motto “You’re never too old to love or be loved.” Today, the group’s quarterly newsletter connects more than 1,600 women worldwide. Each summer, this unique organization holds a weekend celebration in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Golden Threads chronicles the group’s ninth annual weekend celebration, attended by lesbians from all over the country. With the irrepressible Burton presiding, the women “no one was looking for” gather to discuss the realities of growing old and to share their memories of lesbian life. Smashing stereotypes of seniors as bland, sexless beings, the women meet, dance, and flirt, thrilled to be surrounded by kindred spirits. Ruth Ellis, who at 96 is the event’s oldest participant, takes a break from dancing to shoot pool in the bar and rib her opponent. Meanwhile, as filmmaker Lucy Winer grapples with her own dread of aging, her wry, self-reflective musings provide a witty, bittersweet counterpoint to the weekend’s joyous communal spirit.
The film takes a serious turn when Burton suffers a massive stroke 24 hours after her victorious Provincetown weekend. Suddenly, this fiercely independent woman is left unable to walk, talk, read, or write.
Yet even in illness, Burton’s everyday heroism shines through. By the film’s end, Winer has survived her midlife crisis and Burton, spurred on by physical therapists and her own indomitable life force, is undergoing a remarkable rebirth.
- Lucy WinerProducer
- Karen EatonProducer