FIFA 2015 Review: Microtopia, a film about tiny homes, gets an extra Sunday screening

Ana Rewakowicz's Sleeping Bag Dress expands to become a kind of cocoon, in the documentary film Microtopia.

Ana Rewakowicz’s Sleeping Bag Dress expands to become a kind of cocoon, in the documentary film Microtopia.

Previous screenings of Microtopia at the Festival International du Film sur l’Art (FIFA) were sold out; an extra screening has been added for Sunday March 29, 2015. Another film, Strange and Familiar: Home and Architecture on Fogo Island, will be shown with it, as part of a double bill.

Microtopia is about possibilities, news ways of thinking and living. It features tiny houses, micro dwellings, and a VERY portable shelter – the Sleeping Bag Dress.

Montreal artist Ana Rewakowicz arranges her Sleeping Bag Dress, in the documentary film Microtopia. Note the Farine Five Roses sign in the background.

Montreal artist Ana Rewakowicz arranges her Sleeping Bag Dress, in the documentary film Microtopia. Note the Farine Five Roses sign in the background.

In northern California, Jay Shafer is living in his fourth tiny (and tidy) house. He built it himself. It’s made of dark wood and from the outside it looks like something a surbanite might put in the backyard as a place to store the lawnmower or where children can play house. The exposed wood on the inside gives it a warm and cosy look. Burners for cooking hang on the wall when not in use, to free up counter space.

Shafer explains that in the U.S., there are regulations that specify a minimum size for rooms in a house. He got around this restriction by putting his dwelling on wheels; strictly speaking, it is no longer a house.

Jay Shafer's tiny house in the documentary film Microtopia. It is being shown on Sunday, March 29, at FIFA, Montreal's Festival of Films on Art.

Jay Shafer’s tiny house in the documentary film Microtopia. It is being shown on Sunday, March 29, at FIFA, Montreal’s Festival of Films on Art.

Jennifer Siegel makes homes from former shipping containers, or long-haul trucks. These look relatively spacious compared to Shafer’s home.

In Mexico, Richart Sowa built his own floating island on a base of wooden pallets and reclaimed plastic bottles. (“Boats rock but island roll,” he says.) It is quite ramshackle, compared to Shafer’s construction.

 

Richart Sowa built his own island in Mexico, using wooden pallets and plastic bottles, lots of plastic bottles. Sowa is one of several participants in the documentary film Microtopia.

Richart Sowa built his own island in Mexico, using wooden pallets and plastic bottles, lots of plastic bottles. Sowa is one of several participants in the documentary film Microtopia.

Greek architect Aristide Antonas proposes making a home from old tanker trucks, though he admits living in one might feel like being in prison.

In Denmark, Ion Sorvin shows a sort of plastic igloo that one call roll along the sidewalk and then “park” on the road, between cars. He’s also made a more spacious creation – a “walking house.”

Dre Wapenaar of the Netherlands hangs pod-like tents from trees. He had designed them with the thought that eco-activists could use them while carrying out “actions” to save forests, but before he could contact any such activists, a campsite owner offered to buy them.

Dre Wapenaar of the Netherlands designed these tree tents. Rockabye baby!

Dre Wapenaar of the Netherlands designed these tree tents. Rockabye baby!

 

There’s even a Montreal segment! Artist Ana Rewakowickz, who’s originally from Poland, demonstrates the Sleeping Bag Dress within sight of the famous Five Roses Flour sign.

And that brings me to one of my quibbles about the film. During the opening credits, we see the names faces and dwellings of the participants while they say a few words. That’s the last time we see their names.

They rarely say where they are, either. Three people were obviously in the U.S., and two of them were in deserts, though it was not clear if it was the same desert, or what state they were in. I had to Google Sowa to find out where his island was. Maybe I should recognize Copenhagen when I see it, but I had to Google Sorvin, too.

The artists and architects in the film talk about reusing and recycling, shrinking their environmental footprints, and ask how much stuff and how much space do we really need, etc?

A fascinating topic, though one size would definitely not fit all. Claustrophobics need not apply! It’s interesting to note that, the occasional drawing aside, we never see more than one person at a time in these dwellings. Few of these people could tell their friends “Drop by anytime!”

I cannot agree with Jennifer Siegel’s statement that we can keep all our memories on our hard drives now, and therefore we can get by with very few physical things. Speak for yourself, lady! There must be a happy medium, no?
Microtopia
Sweden / 2013 / Color / 52 min / English

Strange and Familiar: Home and Architecture on Fogo Island
Canada⎢ Katherine Knight, Marcia Connolly⎢ 2014 ⎢ 52 min
Cinquième Salle of Place des Arts, 175 Ste. Catherine St. W.

Microtopia
Realisation: Jesper Wachtmeister
Cinematography: Kenneth Svedlund
Sound: Jesper Wachtmeister, Kenneth Svedlund
Editing: Jesper Wachtmeister, Oscar Willey
Music: Benny Nilsen
Producer(s): Jesper Wachtmeister, Jonas Kellagher
Production: Solaris Filmproduktion, Eight Millimetres AB
Distribution: Autlook Filmsales

The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information.

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