Documentary: The Queen of Versailles (2012). This film offers a peek into to the lives of a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008. With epic proportions of a Shakespearean tragedy, the film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream.
The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing the largest privately-owned house in the United States, a 90,000 sq. ft. palace, a feat made possible by the real estate bubble and cheap money.
Over the next two years, their sprawling empire falters due to the economic crisis that devastated many Americans. As the drama unfolds, significant changes in lifestyle and character ensue within the cross-cultural household of family members and their domestic staff.
Documentary: We The Tiny House People (2012). As city populations increase and rents continue to escalate, a new trend of living in smaller spaces has emerged. From tiny houses to micro-apartments, thousands are downsizing.
This film nicely captures the energy behind the small house movement. Over the course of five years, Kirsten Dirksen, co-founder of faircompanies.com and a Huffington Post blogger, journeys into the lives and homes of people searching for simplicity, self-sufficiency, minimalism, and happiness by creating shelter in caves, converted garages, trailers, tool sheds, river boats and former pigeon coops.
Dirksen notes, “I still live in a relatively spacious 1,000 square foot apartment with my family of 4 (soon-to-be 5) and I’m not looking to downsize, but I can’t get enough of these tiny homes. I’m sure there’s something Thoreauvian in my attraction to the examined lives of those who inhabit them.”
Available for streaming at YouTube
Documentary: Tiny: A Story About Living Small (2013). In this film, Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller ask, “What is home?” After traveling for the better part of a decade of travel, approaching his 30th birthday, Christopher Smith plant roots. He buys a 5-acre plot of land in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of building a home, having no construction experience, in the mountains of Colorado.
This film follows the duo as they attempt to build a Tiny House from scratch with no building experience, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into houses smaller than the average parking space.
Along the way, it is noted that from 1970 to 2010, the average size of a new house in America has almost doubled.
However, in recent years, many are redefining their American Dream to focus on flexibility, financial freedom, and quality of life over quantity of space. Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about sustainability, good design, and the changing American Dream.
Available for streaming at Netflix.