LightYears TitleCard screengrab

Read about the film and its good timing



Get to know the three remarkable people in the film



Meet the creators and crew 




LIGHT YEARS...because we're always writing our story.

Light Years introduces Dee, a writer and professor who savors her life-long passion for African dance; Anita, whose work as an actress, dancer, playwright and poet spans eight decades; and Paul, who started painting at 51 and helps to redefine “retirement.”

Dee, Anita and Paul know that whether eighteen or eighty, we all need meaningful relationships, a sense of purpose, and the chance to express ourselves. They reveal that the second half of life can actually be a time of rediscovery and renewal, of giving back, and growing into more authentic versions of ourselves.

This is the heartbeat of Light Years: the choice to remain engaged in community, to continue learning, giving back, and growing as we grow older.

As their stories unfold over several years, Dee, Anita and Paul face challenges and threats to their independence. Each responds with a resiliency that transcends those challenges and affirms our potential for renewal at any age.

Read about our first film, A Chance to Grow

The time is ripe for this film.

We’re at an extraordinary turning point as the over-65 population around the world swells to unprecedented numbers, welcoming into its ranks over 77 million baby boomers who want to know the good news about getting older.

And there is good news. We’ve learned that how we age depends a lot on our attitudes and choices throughout our lives, and recent findings reveal that continued learning, creative expression and healthy social connections fuel our brains & bodies for all our years.


“I have no disability reinventing myself, that’s the idea …to use yourself as best as you can.”

Anita’s work in theater spans eight decades and a host of adventures.
A singer, dancer, actress and writer.

Anita’s Latina cultural heritage figures prominently in the film: We trace her early years in Vieques, Puerto Rico, her immigration to New York at age 12, and her family’s lean times in New York’s barrio. And we witness her ambitious collaboration on a Puerto Rican themed musical drama. At 92, she returns to Puerto Rico, a poignant trip that is most likely her last.

When a bad fall lands her in the hospital, Anita faces major changes and long-held fears about mobility and dependence, but we also recognize her endearing and enduring ability to live in the moment and adapt to change.



“When I’m dancing, forget age, I’m ageless. I’m part of rhythm and joy and life.”

From the first scene of Light Years, we feel Dee's deep connection to dance, and see much younger dancers lifted by her infectious joy.

Dee dances because she has always danced. After a bohemian childhood, she worked in the MGM movies of the 40’s, sashaying behind Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. But as World War 2 ends, she makes a major shift in her life, following a deep desire to “be more real.”

We trace her continuing evolution through marriage, family life, various careers, and new ways to contribute well into her 80’s. When a failing knee threatens her independence, she speaks poignantly about loss, caregiving, and how shifting roles can challenge us at any age.

“I was conditioned to being of service, and if someone thinks I have something to give, well then maybe I do.”

A former corporate manager, Paul restarted his life after retirement. One of his uncles created “Flash Gordon” and another drew the comic strip “Blondie,” but Paul did not think about art seriously until he was 51.

After a huge life transformation, echoing a thread of reinvention that runs throughout the film, he emerges as an accomplished portrait artist. Alongside him, we trace the unfolding of a piece of art, both on the canvas and within the artist.

We learn that Paul is equally passionate about mentoring younger generations. With six children, he extends his “father” role as a college golf coach, and his team members speak about his transformative role in their lives. Paul’s warm, open demeanor takes the world in and generously gives back, transforming his own life as he contributes to others.




Claire Marie Panke

A graduate of Georgetown University, Claire studied film at New York University, including documentary directing and producing, earning a Certificate in Film. Light Years is her second feature documentary.

Her first documentary, A Chance to Grow (2000) had its broadcast premiere on The Discovery Channel, and also aired on National Geographic Television and other international venues on several continents. A Chance to Grow was shown at festivals and won several awards, including a CINE Golden Eagle. Claire has also directed three short documentaries, Liberty Street, Christina, and Glacé, and has had several audio diary interviews broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition & All Things Considered.

Claire is also a neonatal intensive care nurse, and has worked as a writer, editor, photographer, and medical/nursing consultant for films, television & print ads. In front of the camera, Claire served as the spokesperson for a national campaign to raise awareness of health care issues, appearing in nationally broadcast commercials, print & radio ads, and Congressional publications.


Linda Hattendorf

Linda Hattendorf has served as editor on documentaries that have aired on PBS, A&E, TCM, The Sundance Channel as well as in theatrical venues and festivals. Linda has worked on films directed by Ken Burns, Mary Engel, William Greaves, Barbara Kopple, Danny Schechter, and more.

In addition to Light Years, other editing work includes 7th Street, Brother Born Again, People are the Sky, Relocation, Arkansas, Forget Me Nots , and The Battle of Durban II: Israel, Palestine & the United Nations  Linda is also a documentary editing instructor at New York Film Academy, and has served as a juror at many festivals and a guest lecturer.

Her directorial debut, The Cats of Mirikitani, was broadcast nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens, screened at international film festivals and several countries theatrically. The film won many awards, including Audience Award at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, Best Picture/Japanese Eyes at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and Best Documentary at the Durban International Film Festival.


The double platinum and gold award-winning team of Anika Paris and Dean Landon have been collaborating for over 15 years as a songwriting/producing duo, with their music has featured in major motion pictures and television. Anika & Dean have also written songs for multiple artists on BMG, Arista, Universal, Warner Brothers, and Sony.

Anika has composed for numerous stage productions, and is a published poet and recording artist. She teaches at UCLA and is co-author on a new book, The Five Star Music Makeover. And here’s the cool part: Anika is Anita’s granddaughter!

Dean is a composer, producer, orchestrator, and multi-instrumentalist with 30-plus years of experience.

Together they composed the 2014 Winter Olympic theme for Canada, and won an HOLA Award for Outstanding Music for “Temple of the Souls,” the Off-Broadway musical drama written by one our three characters, Anita Velez-Mitchell, that premiered to rave reviews in NYC.
Listen to the gorgeous music from Temple of the Souls here: www.templeofthesouls.com


Anika Paris


Dean Landon


Douglas O'Connor

Douglas O’Connor has been editing documentaries for almost three decades. He has worked with most major broadcast / cable networks on projects including CBS Reports, The Barbara Walters Special, and Addiction, and the Academy Award-nominated short Why Can't We Be a Family Again? as well as other programming for HBO, Discovery, VH1, TLC and independent release.

Working as both an editor and post-production supervisor, Doug has extensive experience in both the art and craft of documentary filmmaking.

Recent projects include the IMAX films Roads to Mecca and Jerusalem, Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, Jerusalem 3D, Relocation Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration, Resistance at Tule Lake, and Children of the Inquisition.

Sandrine was the first editor at the human rights organization Witness, where she edited over 15 documentaries and trained activists on effectively using video for advocacy work.

She also served as editor on Men of the Cloth, Persons of InterestTea & Justice, Western Sahara: The Story of Africa’s Last Colony, and Arise: The Battle Over Affirmative Action. Her work has been shown in theaters, film festivals and on television.

Sandrine has also freelanced at NBC Universal where she edits shows for MSNBC, History Channel and Bravo. Sandrine has Bachelor degrees in Architecture and Film Studies from Ecole d’Architecture de Paris-La-Villette and Paris 8 in France, and a Certificate in Film Production from Brooklyn College.


Sandrine Isambert


Francesca Mor

Francesca Mor is a bilingual film editor (Italian/English) with over 15 years experience in the industry. Her work spans award-winning documentary film, documentary & dramatic shorts, music videos, commercial and trailers.

Her film editing work includes Black Russians, Mothers, Forbidden Childhood, Below Sea Level, La Storia Siamo Noi: Giancarlo Siani, And the Tigris Flows Quiet, Betrayed, and Nureyev.

Born in Brescia, Italy, Francesca has been living in New York City since 2010.


Gustavo Martinez-Schmidt

Gustavo Martinez-Schmidt began his professional career with TVE (Spanish State TV), working on Metrópolis (TVE2) in the 80s-90s, and since then has always sought an innovative fusion of audiovisual narrative and aesthetics.

Since then, he has done TV, advertising, fiction, music… but came to specialize in motion graphics, documentaries and corporate communication.