Guest post by Dan Dark
Dan is a screener for the IIFF (Docs) and loves seeing movies in empty theaters. During the day he is Director of Content at Raidious.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” - Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN
“The things you own, end up owning you.” - Tyler Durden, FIGHT CLUB
What is your home? Is it a place to store your stuff, a place to offer security, an investment? According to Christopher Smith, the director and star of the documentary TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL, your home is a reflection of what we value in our lives and how we want to live. Your home is your self portrait.
So when Smith, who says he lived in 20 different houses growing up, is approaching his 30th birthday and finds himself grappling with the need to settle down and buy a home, he struggles with what kind of life he wants to live and builds his home to suit that. He wants to build a tiny home with the help of his girlfriend and pull it out to a 5-acre plot he purchased in the mountains of Colorado.
Tiny homes are just what they sound like: homes that are 84 square feet, 110 square feet, 130 square feet -- there is no definitive size (though one common thread is that many of these homes are built on wheeled trailers as a loophole to minimum square-footage building laws). Their owners -- some single, some couples, some with cats -- build tiny houses for a variety of reasons. I broke them down accordingly:
- The Tyler Durden: Rejection of the system.
- The Hendy David Thoreau: Finding meaning in a simpler life, closer to nature.
- The Al Gore: Environmentally friendly.
- The Dave Ramsey: Live within your means.
All of these are, in their own way, about freedom. Freedom from the expectations of the American Dream that just doesn’t apply to everyone. Freedom in living how you want to live.
And yet, as unsurprising as it seems, the value of TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL as a documentary is that it is well-constructed, without fluff and efficiently told. The film’s tight 66 minutes keeps focused on Smith’s construction of his own tiny home, while interviewing a dozen or so other micro-home dwellers.
When I heard Smith narrating in the first person, I prepared myself for the worst, as I have encountered too many documentaries where the director and subject can’t seem to edit themselves out. This is what ultimately doomed documentaries like “Sharkwater” for me. TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL and Smith never fall into this trap. At points where Smith could focus on his personal struggles with his job or girlfriend, securing the funds to build, or long diatribes about how McMansions are evil or how the banking industry is unscrupulous, the film remains focused on the question of the home and what it means to have a tiny house.
To Smith, the world gets so much bigger when you’re living small. Your home is your self portrait. How you live is a reflection of what you value. In TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL, Smith says, “We all know what [home] is, even if we can’t describe it.” So sometimes you have to build it yourself.
The 2013 Indianapolis International Film Festival will take place July 18 to 28. Secure your tickets now for TINY, A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL.