As Is: A Downsized Life

Award of Excellence in Documentary - Berkeley Video and Film Festival, Berkeley CA October 2005

Life comes without guarantees or warrantees. Life comes to us "As Is". Still, we are all immersed in a culture where the primary, if not primordial, message is: "more, more, more." Earn more, spend more, consume more and possess more of everything - the implicit promise is that happiness and fulfillment will be yours if only you have more.

"As Is" explores that fundamental premise through the stories of nine divergent people from the USA and abroad who must re-examine the value of their lives as they encounter economic simplicity. Earning less and spending less runs contrary to everything they've been taught. All were once distinctively upwardly mobile.

While "As Is" presents four grittily real accounts of the fallout of unemployment, displacement and deprivation, it is saved from utter bleakness by the earthy and hope-infused accounts of five other people who embraced voluntary economic simplicity for reasons ranging from the spiritual and environmental to personal development and artistic growth. Former Disney artists, entertainers, physicians, monastic nuns, educators all dispossessed and challenging the axiomatic "more, more, more" with the idea that a well lived life has less to do with more and more to do with better.

Intimate and exclusive interviews, behind the scenes footage, original artwork, animation and archival footage are infused with original music (contributed by several of the interviewees) yielding an amalgam of "the moment."

 © Carl Bennet

Narrator and professional auctioneer Marie Keep imparts provenance (the known source of origin or background of an auction item), her unique cadence providing the thrill of the unknown, and illuminating life's unpredictability at each turn.

"As Is: A Downsized Life" delves into themes of self-respect, honor and freedom, attainable for some through total disengagement from consumer society and others by losing everything and starting over. The intricate and often paradoxical journey away from materialistic society emerges for each as in an epiphany uncovering man's relationship with nature and self-sufficiency. For some, it's the bitter realization that from destruction comes renewal. For others, it's not living large singularly but instead with largesse toward the world. "As Is" offers a roller-coaster ride through the guilelessness and vulnerability as well as the scrappy, stubborn and naturally funny dimensions of these lives on the downside.