Master Plan (2011)

Robert Todd’s documentary concerning managed housing (from suburban developments and co-housing to affordable housing and jails) concerns itself with surfaces. There were many mesmerizing and gentle shots of siding (of the vinyl and other kinds), windows, floors, insulation – but very few of the residents’ faces or bodies. This seems deliberate, concerned as he is by the contours of a divide: the public from the private, the rich from the poor, the citizens paying their dues from citizens paying their taxes. Home mitigates our spilling out into the public realm – the documentary is punctuated by residents’ views regarding the safety and the reliability of home.

Unfortunately, Mr. Todd’s surface treatment made the film feel like a shallow treatment of what I consider a critical subject. Notwithstanding the fact that this was intended to be a Part I of many more, I wished that he delved more into the lives and views of the residents and prisoners and provided some point of view or cultural critique about managed housing. The section on affordable housing alone would have merited an entire film – the section just starts to raise interesting questions on how we perceive our need for space, how violence and crime can be mitigated by good housing planning, and how communities are formed and supported by a particular way of planning. Focusing the camera more on the residents themselves would also have helped the viewer connect more strongly with their lives and fully enter into their space.

Masterplan. Produced by Robert Todd. Flappingbird Productions, 2011.