Mountain Dreamers presents ‘A Decent Home’ screening, panel to highlight lives of mobile home park residents
Documentary to tour around Colorado
The topic is the focus of director Sara Terry’s newest documentary, “A Decent Home.” The film is being screened for free by Mountain Dreamers at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at Colorado Mountain College, 107 Denison Placer Road, Breckenridge.
Mountain Dreamers Executive Director Peter Bakken said the immigrant-related organization was approached about the film by Thistle — a Boulder nonprofit working with Resident Owned Communities USA to help residents purchase their own mobile home parks, which recently gave a presentation to the Summit Board of County Commissioners.
Mountain Dreamers has screened other documentaries before, such a “The Quiet Force,” which focuses on the immigrant workforce in ski communities. The upcoming event will feature a panel with filmmaker Sara Terry, co-producer Gretchen Landau, State Rep. Julie McCluskie, and local residents of Summit County mobile home parks.
What: “A Decent Home” screening
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 20
Where: Colorado Mountain College, 107 Denison Placer Road, Breckenridge
Cost: Free. Visit ADecentHomeFilm.com for more information.
The film is in English and Spanish with subtitles, and Mountain Dreamers will provide simultaneous interpretation in English and Spanish during the discussion.
“We’re doing them as they come, and now that the pandemic has eased up, we hope to be doing more of these kinds of things now that we can do public events again,” Bakken said.
While local mobile home parks aren’t featured in the film, Terry did spotlight the Denver Meadows park in Aurora. Terry spent roughly six-and-a-half years on the film, with the story of Denver Meadows and the 2019 city council election taking about three of those years. She found out about the park not long after residents began fighting, and she wanted to document their struggle to give the film a narrative.
“(The film) needed a beginning, middle and end,” Terry said. “It was too late for me if a park had already been sold.”
Terry ended up filming four mobile home parks out of the 10 that she initially considered. The others are Golfview Mobile Home Park in North Liberty, Iowa, Santiago Villa in Mountain View, California and Baker and Birch, in Boscawen, New Hampshire. The New Hampshire park is a success story with residents buying the properties, while the Mountain View locale shows inequality in Silicon Valley.
“I’m potentially challenging the stereotypes that a viewer might have about ‘trailer trash’ and the things they think they know about mobile home parks,” Terry said. “People who work at Google live there because they can’t afford housing.”
Having documentary subjects across the country naturally made it more of a time investment than her previous works, which each took around two years or less. Terry also dealt with stretches of inconsistent funding and long periods of gathering as much footage as possible.
“Any minute, any second in the filming that you do could become the opening scene of the film,” Terry said. “You don’t know. You’re not following a script.”
The Los Angeles native calls herself an “accidental director” who entered the industry after a career of journalism and photography. Her first documentary, the award-winning “Fambul Tok,” is about a grassroots forgiveness program in Sierra Leone that released in 2011. She followed that up with documenting the lives of three singer-songwriters for 2013’s “Folk.”
For “A Decent Home,” Terry got the idea from reading an article in The Guardian about Mobile Home University, which teaches people how to buy and sell properties. Though she wasn’t actively looking for a third documentary, the story outraged her, and she wanted to do something about it.
“When housing on the lowest rung of the American Dream is being devoured by the wealthiest of the wealthy, whose dream are we serving?” Terry said. “This housing and the people that live there have so few protections in almost every state in the country.”
The project was previously titled “That’s How We Roll,” and footage was used on the HBO news show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” for a 2019 segment on mobile homes. Now, Terry is in the middle of eight Colorado screenings — from Boulder to Gunnison — as the film travels on the festival circuit. It will also be viewable in Durango, Aurora and at the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival.
If people miss Wednesday’s event, the film is slated to come back to Breckenridge for the Housing Colorado Conference in October.
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