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Our House: The Potential to Build Something Beautiful Is Badly Tarnished

Charley James and Lulu Demaine: A half-dozen former addicts, ex-offenders and homeless people living together in an abandoned Brooklyn building makes for a sad Hot Docs entry in search of a theme – and a purpose.

Our Housefocuses on a half-dozen or so ex-cons, former drug addicts, punkster squatters and an occasional drifter sharing a communal living space in an abandoned Brooklyn light industrial building and warehouse in an attempt to see how they build and maintain a sense of community, family, faith and home. Unfortunately, like the project it documents, the film fails on all levels.

Our House

Our House is rife with problems.

For starters, the character development contradicts the avowed purpose of the film. By focusing on an individual – Dan – and his search for a new life after release from prison, the story neglects its self-proclaimed goal of exploring how communities are formed and built. The other people - each with a distinct, sometimes more interesting, personality - are like an afterthought.

Our House

Just as bad, the film lacks focus.

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When the warehouse was reclaimed for re-development and the community of addicts disbanded, the film failed to demonstrate a coherent story. Sadly, directors Daniel Teague and Greg King didn’t know how to weave a story from the footage they accumulated. Instead, they leave the audience breadcrumbs of a half-finished ethnography, unfocused insights into the world of those spotlighted and a longing for hope that is never fully realized.

As a result, although Our House won a few awards at some relatively minor doc festivals, in the end it is simply a poorly shot, miserably edited, meandering mishmash of self-indulgent filmmaking that does little to give viewers any reason to care about the documentary’s subjects or what happens when the building they inhabit is slated for demolition, forcing them to move out and move on.

charley james lulu demaine

Charley James and Lulu Demaine
The Progressive Curmudgeon

Credits

  • Directors: David Teague, Greg King
  • Producer: Greg King
  • Cinematographers: David Teague, Greg King
  • Editors: Greg King, David Teague
  • Composers: Jason Noble