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One Big Home

Trophy homes threaten Martha's Vineyard. When he feels he is complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, one carpenter takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera.

A printer-friendly version of this page 88 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Thomas Bena
Produced by Thomas Bena, James Holland
Executive Producers: Steve Bernier, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, Arleen McGlade, Thomas Bena
Editors: James Holland, Liz Witham, Jim Cricchi
Cinematography: Thomas Bena, Jeremy Mayhew, Liz Witham
Story Advisor: Mollie Doyle
Music Composed and Arranged by: Paul Brill
Produced by Elephant in the Room Productions

"A perceptive and moving account of the tension between individual property rights and community values" John Rennie Short, Prof. Public Policy, Univ of Maryland
[Note: Community screenings of ONE BIG HOME can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]

Gentrification comes in many forms. On the tiny island of Martha's Vineyard, where presidents and celebrities vacation, trophy homes threaten to destroy the island's unique character.

Twelve years in the making, ONE BIG HOME follows one carpenter's journey to understand the trend toward giant houses. When he feels complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, Thomas Bena takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera. Bumping up against angry homeowners and builders who look the other way, he works with his community and attempts to pass a new bylaw to limit house size.

Grade Level: 10-12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2017     Copyright Date: 2016
DVD ISBN: 1-941545-95-5

"One Big Home tells a fascinating story of conflicting visions of economic development on Martha's Vineyard, and by extension, the entire country...In doing so it focuses on the broader questions of how we ought to live our lives as human beings and consumers...The film shows that residents of any community can organize and educate one another, work with local planning boards and elected officials, and help to shift their neighborhoods and cities away from ill-planned growth and its environmental impacts and toward a far more sustainable future."
Michael E. Kraft, Professor Emeritus, Political Science and Public and Environmental Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, co-author, Toward Sustainable Communities: Transition and Transformations in Environmental Policy

"This is a perceptive and moving account of the tension between individual property rights and community values, the importance of a sense of place and the hard work necessary to achieve political change. Never simplistic and always nuanced, the film raises important issues for all of the US as the conspicuous consumption of the superrich impacts all our lives. Vital viewing for those concerned with zoning, affordable housing and the changing character of residential America."
John Rennie Short, Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Author, The Unequal City: Urban Resurgence, Displacement and the Making of Inequality in Global Cities

"A valuable classroom resource for both sustainability and urban planning classes. There are no easy answers in this film--as the filmmaker learns when he tries to decide how big his own house should be. The many viewpoints shown here and the town's long process toward resolution are sure to fuel classroom or community discussion on how sustainable development might best be achieved in other settings as well."
Stephen Wheeler, Professor of Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture Program, University of California - Davis, Author, Planning for Sustainability: Towards Livable, Equitable, and Ecological Communities

"Engaging and provocative...Provides a contemporary example of how the values of individual consumption are pitted against the values of preserving community well-being and, ultimately, social and environmental sustainability. This film raises important and challenging questions about the contested nature and boundaries of community, the exercise of political agency, and the complexity of the multiple dilemmas associated with growth, development and the 'tragedy of the commons.'"
Dr. Kai Schafft, Associate Professor, Education and Rural Sociology, Director, Center on Rural Education and Communities, Penn State University

"When it comes to houses, size matters...One Big Home reveals the deep divisions caused by the clash between current residents and new ones who have the money to build their dream homes. For students and others, it demonstrates how citizen participation on limiting residential development can help preserve community character, raising key questions on the balance of private property rights with land use regulation."
Terry Szold, Adjunct Professor of Land Use Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Principal, Community Planning Solutions

"A very thought provoking film...This is a film about the nature of community itself; the balance of the collective concerns and rights of the community versus the rights of the individual and how people come together to try and solve a problem...You see the struggle of democracy in process; slow, messy, sometimes contentious but eventually productive. It's a beautiful thing to watch."
Peter Milholland, architectural designer/builder

"One Big Home is a must see for architects, planners and activists...A fascinating documentary."
Keith Moskow, FAIA, Moskow Linn Architects

"One Big Home...really stands out in the current climate and will give US cinemagoers something refreshingly different to engage with...Intelligent and thoughtful."
Jennie Kermode, Eye For Film

"Offer[s] viewers insights from multiple perspectives and an inside look at how one community decided together in determining its future."
Kimberley Mok, TreeHugger

"When will a small community fight to protect its character? One Big Home provides an engrossing case from Martha's Vineyard where the residents of Chilmark observe and debate the construction of giant homes. Students, activists, and community leaders will be inspired to consider their role in their own communities as well as both what Americans consume and what Americans value."
Brian Miller, Associate Professor of Sociology, Wheaton College

"One Big Home is a must see for architects, planners and activists. It is a fascinating documentary of one man's quest over a decade to restrict the building of gargantuan homes on Martha's Vineyard."
Keith Moskow, FAIA, Moskow Linn Architects

"An indictment of our culture of over-consumption, One Big Home tells a story of rural gentrification...With lessons for architects, urban planners, and community organizers, the documentary describes the struggle for the preservation of community character and a way of life that is grounded, simple, and both socially and environmentally sustainable."
Shannon Van Zandt, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Professor of Residential Land Development, Texas A and M University

"A thought-provoking documentary that requires introspection upon seeing it."
Melissa Michaels, L'Etage Magazine

"The documentary's success is that it includes the viewpoints of multiple parties - avoiding a one-sided bias...Bena's film becomes not so much an indictment of mega-mansions, but a rallying cry to local communities to have a voice in the conversation."
Michael d'Estries, Mother Nature Network

"An absorbing account of a community's effort to deal successfully with the issue of protecting character and environment while supporting the local economy."
Town Topics Newspaper

"Aside from spotlighting the essentialness of local government, the film draws compelling connections between property ownership and oft-unexamined ideals of liberty...As the film's title suggests, the biggest home is one all humans share - and it can only satisfy unstoppable appetites for so long."
Alexander Castro, Newport Mercury

Select your institution type

DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
* 27-minute bonus interview with architect, Peter Breese
* 5.1 surround sound or stereo
* SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
* Scene Selection

Host a community screening
The film's website
Thomas Bena's TEDx Talk

Awards and Festivals
Audience Award, Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival
Docs for Sale, IDFA, Amsterdam
Newport Beach Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Woods Hole Film Festival
DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival
Melbourne Documentary Film Festival
Milano Design Film Festival
Newport Film
Martha's Vineyard Film Festival
Princeton Environmental Film Festival
Global Peace Film Festival
Ridgefield Independent Film Festival
Sierra Nevada Film Festival
Glimmerglas Film Days
White River Indie Film Festival
Block Island Film Festival
Climate Change Film Festival (UK)

American Democracy
American Studies
Historic Preservation
Local Economies
Oceans and Coasts
Political Science
Real Estate Development
Urban and Regional Planning

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Subdivide and Conquer
Suburban sprawl: causes and remedies.

Designing A Great Neighborhood
A model co-housing project, where future residents participate in the design of their own neighborhood.

Store Wars
Looks at the impact on a small town when Wal-Mart plans to build a mega-store there.

Divide In Concord
A fiery octogenarian activist spearheads a grassroots campaign to ban the sale of single-serve plastic bottled water in Concord, MA.

Possum's Rest
Can humans and wildlife co-exist in the suburbs?

... more Reviews

"One Big Home is not just a film about trophy homes on Martha's Vineyard, it is about the power of community activism, it is about grassroots change, it is a rallying cry for communities all over the country with similar plights."
Mount Desert Islander

"Exposes the scale of the issue...The film makes fascinating watching for anyone interested in site-appropriate and socially sensitive home design and the importance of appropriate planning laws. It could serve as a timely warning to many concerned communities."
Sanctuary: Modern Green Homes Magazine

"As the time elapses, we watch Bena evolve...Real significant change was enacted after Bena became passionate about his outcome...That was the key. Negativity. Complaining...He was not going to make a significant impact unless he changed the scope of his passion from fighting against to fighting for something."
Billy Manas, Elephant Journal

"Highly Recommended...Architects, building inspectors, academics and local residents are among those who present compelling arguments for both perspectives...By honestly showing the complexities of the process and the people, this film provides a myriad of excellent starting points for discussions that are not restricted to development and local policy, but which could delve into social and historical areas as well."
Shaeadha Natraj, Educational Media Reviews Online

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