The Villages, America’s largest retirement haven and one of the nation’s loudest right-wing Trump strongholds, continues to spark fascination.
Filmmaker Lance Oppenheim grew up in Fort Lauderdale, where he basked in the sun and went to school and shrugged off “Florida Man” news like everybody else in South Florida, but couldn’t help but pay attention to the headlines that streamed out of the Villages. The Harvard film school grad followed that fascination while putting together a pre-coronavirus documentary produced by Darren Aronofsky and the New York Times, the first feature-length documentary produced by the newspaper.
When he began filming, Oppenheim didn’t have a concrete plan, other than to see what happened when he went to the Villages, this place he’d heard so much about, and turned on a camera.
The result, which doubled as his college thesis, is Some Kind of Heaven, which takes a look at the many retirement activities and clubs before diving deeper to examine the lives of four Villagers figuring out the final stages of life while figuring out if they fit into the Villages.
"I'd been reading so many articles about the place that highlight its more hedonistic aspects," said Oppenheim. "I hadn't seen anything that examined what life was actually like there beyond the flair of really big clubs."
Since the summer of 2018, Oppenheim spent 18 months off-and-on in the Villages, renting Airbnb rooms with welcoming Villagers, including in the home of retired rodeo clowns. "They showed me the (Villages) world."The documentary – a piece of loosely journalistic cinema more concerned with painting a portrait of a few lives in the Villages then with blackout screens filled with statistics – engages with but delves beyond the manufactured, theme-park sheen of the infamous retirement enclave to find those "on the margins of that fantasy," said Oppenheim, and learn about how people approach the end of life.
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