On the surface, tiny houses seem like a romantic idea: living lightly and simply, paring down one's possessions to the minimum and challenging oneself to adapt to new horizons. But what is behind all those lovely, self-built facades, those ultra-efficient heaters and sleeping lofts? And is the tiny house movement a passing fad?
These are the questions that Australian filmmaker Jeremy Beasley poses in Small Is Beautiful, a documentary that follows the aspirations and ordeals of four people in Portland, Oregon, who are attempting to build or live in tiny homes. What eventually unfolds through the film is unexpected and quite moving, as it progresses past the surface and into the more profound realities and radical changes that can accompany such a huge lifestyle shift. Take a gander at the trailer:
We experience the stories of 20-something Ben, and the young couple Nikki and Mitchell, and 50-year-old Karin. Each has their reasons for building their own tiny house, ostensibly as a way to have a secure place to live without the burden of a mortgage. None of them have that much construction experience to begin with, and part of the film documents the trial-and-error building process that challenges and can ultimately empower too.
But what is more interesting are the backstories of these different characters, which the film skillfully weaves into its overall narrative. It adds an emotional depth to the tiny house world that you don't see too much of in shorter video tours, and the film seems to suggest that despite the charming images of the tiny movement, there are extraordinarily ordinary struggles that go on behind the scenes: loss, conflict, family ties and healing. It's a much-needed reality check to the burgeoning movement, as Jeremy tells us:
The internet has a wonderful way of romanticizing things and removing the reality. We see the perfectly manicured photos of tiny houses, is this weird almost clinical way, I wanted to explore deeper than that. The more time I spent documenting the people, the more I realized the humanity of it was the interesting part - not the houses themselves.
Many people wonder what prompts some to forego convention and live in such small spaces, and part of the film's mission is to answer that. Yet, the film goes beyond the tiny details and shows us some universal insights that aren't limited to the size of one's house. Understated and thoughtful, Small Is Beautiful isn't about lingering on some amazing tiny home interior, but rather focuses the eye on the interior of the human spirit, as it undergoes change. The movie is screening throughout May and June 2015, check out Small Is Beautiful for more information or watch the movie directly here.