- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

PARK CITY, Utah You can't choose your family, but you can choose your home.

Michigan native Chris Smith chose Milwaukee and showed his affinity for the place with "American Movie," the 1999 Sundance Film Festival prize-winning feature-length documentary that was about working-class life as lived in that city.

His new documentary, "Home Movie," is showing in competition at this year's festival, which runs through Sunday.

"Home Movie" is about five lives in as many places. The film, commissioned by the Web site homestore.com, reaffirms Mr. Smith's talents as a humane observer of life in the off-center lane.

"Home Movie" features sympathetic portraits of unique individuals explaining their distinctive homes. They include a couple who turned their home into a playhouse for a dozen cats, an alligator wrangler who lives on a bayou houseboat, a couple who transformed an abandoned missile silo, a Tom Tomorrow type whose gadget-filled house suggests the future as imagined in the 1950s and an elderly woman who lives in a treehouse in remote Hawaii.

Mr. Smith had thought of doing a home-themed film when the Web site called him in March with a similar idea and list of interview subjects. He spent about two days filming at each location and started editing in August.

"Home Movie," which is about an hour long, stylistically resembles Errol Morris' "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control," a documentary about five people and their obsessions.

Although Mr. Morris is an inspiration for Mr. Smith and "American Movie" producer Sarah Price, Mr. Smith says he did not consciously emulate Mr. Morris.

"I just go out and film things naturally, how I see them, and edit them into the best film they can be," Mr. Smith says.

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