Tiny: A Story about Living Small (First Run Features, NR)

dvd tinyThis is a film that unabashedly celebrates particular life choices, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, those who have made other choices may well feel left out.

 

 

 

I recently moved from north surburban Atlanta, so I know a thing or two about McMansions and their near cousin, urban sprawl. I’m not going to be a scold and say that their owners are not entitled to such extravagant use of natural resources (it’s a free world, as they say, and my frequent air travel puts me in a bit of a glass house in terms of the environment anyway), but I will note that many people would prefer something on a more human scale and yet may be hard pressed to find it.

Exactly what constitutes “human scale” is debatable, of course, but it’s always worth nothing that the median size of American homes rose 42 percent from 1973 to 2010, from 1,525 sq. ft. to 2,169 sq. ft., while the average number of people in households decreased. American homes also tend to be much larger than those of, say, Europeans or Asians, in countries culturally and economically similar to the United States.

There’s some speculation about the reasons for, and meaning of, the embiggening of American homes in Tiny: A Story about Living Small, a documentary directed by Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith, but most of the time the people on camera are more interested in showing off their own tiny houses (most are well under 200 sq. ft.) and discussing why they chose to live in a tiny house rather than a more conventionally sized home. They seem to be happy with their choices, in other words, and are less concerned about judging others, which makes this a pleasant documentary to watch.

It’s also beautifully shot and edited, and has a natural dramatic structure based on following Smith’s attempt to build his own tiny house (on a trailer, to avoid the need to comply with building codes, a feature common to many tiny houses). Mueller and Smith wrote, shot, and edited the film, giving it a very personal feel. They intersperse stories of other tiny house owners with the progress of Smith’s house, and anyone who is interested in the subject (building your own tiny house, or just reflecting on resource use and sustainable living) will find this an enjoyable documentary. Those not sharing such an interest would be wise to give it a miss, however—this is a film that unabashedly celebrates particular life choices, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, those who have made other choices may well feel left out.

Extras on the DVD include a brief (2:38) featurette on sustainability communities, an extended interview (11:55) with Dee Williams, clips from the 2012 American Planning Association Conference (12:25), a behind-the-scenes feature (12:40), and a Q&A with the filmmakers at the Boulder Film Festival. | Sarah Boslaugh

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