Some Kind of Heaven
A film by Lance Oppenheim
Inside the palm-tree-lined streets of The Villages, America’s largest and most utopian retirement community in central Florida, we meet four residents living on the margins, struggling to find happiness. Referred to as the “Disneyland for Retirees,” this preplanned community offers perfectly manicured lawns, singles mixers, bocce ball, and countless activities to re-energize the golden years of life.
While most of “the Villagers” have bought into the packaged positivity, Barbara, Dennis, and couple Anne and Reggie each struggle to find their footing in this fantasy land as they seek new purpose, look for second love, and navigate the extremes of mental deterioration.
In his feature debut, filmmaker Lance Oppenheim, 2019 Sundance Ignite fellow, delicately balances the humor and absurdity of an outlandish setting with the deeply human experiences of those living within it. Lance’s strength as a filmmaker is epitomized through the subtle nuances of melancholy that lie within the fabric of this film. With strikingly composed cinematography, Some Kind of Heaven challenges our stereotypes around aging, emboldening its characters to live as vibrantly as possible in the time they have left.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
|Producers||Darren Aronofsky, Kathleen Lingo, Melissa Oppenheim Lano, Pacho Velez, Lance Oppenheim, Jeffrey Soros, Simon Horsman|
|Executive Producers||Ari Handel, Brendan Naylor, Morgan Earnest, Andrew Blau, Jeff Orlowski, Trevor Groth, Jake Carter, Tristen Tuckfield, Lindsay Crouse|
|Original Score||Ari Balouzian|
|Sound Recordist||Richard Carlos|
|Assistant Editors||David Shayne Loulwa Khoury|
About the Filmmaker
Lance Oppenheim is a filmmaker from South Florida. His films explore the lives of people who create homes in unconventional spaces and places. He was a 2019 Sundance Ignite Fellow, one of Filmmaker Magazine‘s “25 New Faces of Independent Film 2019,” and is the youngest contributor to The New York Times Op-Docs. Lance graduated from Harvard University’s Visual and Environmental Studies program in 2019. His first feature, Some Kind of Heaven premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
For most of my childhood, The Villages fascinated me. Growing up in South Florida, a few hours’ drive away from the development, salacious tales from the “Disneyworld for Retirees” seeped into my local newspaper, sensationalizing the community’s “hedonistic” residents.
As my films have explored how people create homes in unconventional places and spaces, The Villages, a themed development designed to simulate the American yesteryear, initially appeared to be an ideal subject. I knew I didn’t just want to observe life in The Villages from afar, I wanted to embed myself into the social fabric of the place. For nearly thirty days, I lived in a rental room in The Villages with retired rodeo clowns and tried my best at living The Villages lifestyle. With the help of my new hosts (who introduced me to their friends and gave me a lay of the land) I fashioned a busy daily schedule of pickleball, shuffleboard, acting club and attending many “after-glows” with the Villages Singles club.
My initial interest with the institutions of The Villages—its make-believe history, manically optimistic media, and picture-perfect grooming— soon gave way to the stories of residents at odds with the community’s ethos. Why did some people struggle to find their place inside of this fantasy world?
Despite being three generations removed and almost fifty years younger than many Villagers, I was surprised at how relatable I found many Villagers’ pursuits. Their attempts to find connection, love and meaning were not so dissimilar from my own.
In the popular imagination, the elderly transcend their youthful passions to lead placid lives, informed by hard-won wisdom. That may be true for some people, but that stereotype ignores the reality for most older people (especially those in this film!)—who are no less crazy, or complicated, or full of desire than anyone else. It is my hope that this film speaks to the idea that even in life’s final chapters, conflicts often go unresolved, desires persist, and the search for fulfillment continues.
I feel extremely fortunate to have met and worked with Anne & Reggie, Barbara, and Dennis. It is through their courageous dedication to this film, and the vulnerability, bravado, and longing they allowed us to capture, that such a portrait of growing older was made possible.