Welcome to the yowLAB Film Festival discussion for our second film, Microtopia, directed by Jesper Wachtmeister. Our reviewer this month is yowLAB co-director Jeff Salmon. His review/synopsis is included below.
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We hope you enjoy the film and the discussion. Without further ado. . .
Microtopia provides an interesting look at individuals, primarily artists and architects, who have decided to downsize their life. I say this because for the people in the film it is clear that micro-living is a lifestyle decision. As each person describes their personal reasons for exploring or living a micro-lifestyle some reoccurring ideas start to emerge, the strongest of which is an escape from imposed social and economic pressures.
In this quest for freedom, most of the people featured are exploring nomadic shelters. One of the characteristics of that seems inherent to these nomadic shelters is a sense of connected isolation. This seems to be a reflection of the people, as most admit to liking people but at a distance. John Wells, for example, lives in almost total isolation however enjoys his online connection to others through is webcam and blog. This sentiment is echoed throughout the film as many of the people describe a hope for technology and a reliance on it for connectivity. If we distill this down to its essence we need two things in life: shelter and an internet connection.
This freedom is certainly attractive to the people in the film however what is does really touch on is the reality of increasing populations in urban centres with limited housing. What the film presents is a more utopian and nomadic vision of micro-shelters which is hard to relate to. In cities like New York where the cost of housing is extremely high people have adapted to micro-living more so out of necessity. It would have also been interesting to see a couple or family who are living micro.
Whether you are looking at nomadic micro-shelters or urban micro-apartments the question at the core of the film is relevant: how much do you need? How much do you need to feel connected to others? How much comfort do you need? What will it take for you to be happy? This will be different for everyone.
This is probably best articulated by Jay Shafer in the film when he is discussing his kitchen (his very very small kitchen) when he describes the design process as prioritizing function. He does not cook a lot, therefore he does not need a big kitchen, however if he did, perhaps he would consider making his entire home the kitchen. To this end Jennifer Siegal, the first person shown in the film, provides an excellent idiom about the living micro – “it is less about bigger is better and more about smaller is smarter.”
Below I have summarized a few sections to show the variety of characters and ideas presented in the film.