A still from the documentary “One Big Home,” which focuses on the construction of “giant houses” in Martha’s Vineyard. PHOTO COURTESY OF ‘ONE BIG HOME’

Gentrification of coastal community subject of ‘One Big Home’



BAR HARBOR — “One Big Home,” a documentary that explores the boom in the construction of “giant houses” on Martha’s Vineyard, will be screened at Reel Pizza Cinerama Tuesday through Thursday, Jan. 17-19, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each night.

The documentary, which took home the Audience Award from the Hamptons Take2 Documentary Film Festival, takes a close look at the tiny island where presidents and celebrities vacation, and where trophy homes threaten to destroy the island’s unique character.

Twelve years in the making, “One Big Home” follows one carpenter’s journey to understand the trend toward giant houses. When he feels complicit in wrecking the place he calls home, Thomas Bena takes off his tool belt and picks up a camera. Bumping up against angry homeowners and builders who look the other way, he works with his community and attempts to pass a new bylaw to limit house size.

“One Big Home” is not just a film about trophy homes on Martha’s Vineyard, it is about the power of community activism, it is about grassroots change, it is a rallying cry for communities all over the country with similar plights. Screening organizers believe that here in Maine, where the fight to protect land and wildlife is constant, and gentrification is becoming a serious issue, Maine people will identify strongly with the core message of “One Big Home.”

At the film’s premiere earlier this year, Bena told WBUR reporters covering the event that with all the controversy leading up to the screening, he wasn’t sure what to expect from the audience of locals. He understands that the documentary deals with thorny issues that can raise high emotions. “I hope you guys will ask us hard questions tonight,” he told the sold-out crowd at the Chilmark Community Center, “and I hope that we’ll treat each other with respect because we’re dealing with a prickly issue around land use in our community that we all love so much.”

The last showing of the week, on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., will include a question-and-answer opportunity with Bena via Skype, facilitated by Island Housing Trust Executive Director Alison Beane and board President Ted Koffman. The documentary has a running time of 90 minutes.