Opinion | The Paradise Next Door

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“Why would I want to hear about death and destruction? I’d rather hear somebody made a hole in one yesterday.”

transcript

The Paradise Next Door

“Why would I want to hear about death and destruction? I’d rather hear somebody made a hole in one yesterday.”

[MUSIC PLAYING] “1, 2, 3. Smile!” “We would like to think the American dream is a happy retirement. And that’s what we’ve established ourselves to be is the last bastion of life.” “Come on, smile it up.” “There are some people that don’t like us. But it kind of goes along with any success.” “The Villages literally is in the middle of nowhere. We had to keep purchasing more land. And it all had to be connected so that people can get around in golf carts. The dream was here all along. It’s just that we find some people that just will not sell to us.” “You’re the biggest jerk there is!” “Roll tape.” “Everything in here’s all bullshit.” “They have a house in the middle of the villages. So we just build around them.” “Ah! This is the rock wall that kind of divides us. Even though there’s a fence, they built a wall so that way it’s harder to see us. And it’s harder for us to see them, even though this isn’t very high.” [MUSIC PLAYING] “Zombies all basically do the same thing. They try to eat people and they try to survive. That’s kind of what The Villages is doing. They all want to go golfing, they all want to get drunk, and they don’t want to be interrupted by anyone in the outside world.” “Oh, look at this one.” “Four more years. Four more years.” “Vote him out. Vote him out.” “With them moving closer, I feel kind of trapped. Everything has its place over there. But over here, it’s like the island of misfit toys.” “My mom doesn’t want to sell because there are a lot of memories in the house for her. My dad bought this so that we wouldn’t be around people. So if my dad was alive, he would be mad.” “I like it here. Even though we are right up against The Villages, I want to leave because it’s kind of like my own little world.” “My American dream, well, I’m living it right here I think. This is some place of me and my family built. And if we like it, we figure everybody else will like it also.” “What a great place this is. I mean, it’s a utopia.” “Well, there’s bad here. And I don’t want to say it’s hidden, but it’s minimized.” “They try and make you believe that everything here is perfect. And everything is controlled.” “Why would I want to hear about death and destruction? I’d rather hear somebody made a hole in one yesterday.” “This really is a fantasy land. Nothing ever bad happens here. And we felt that for four and a half years. When the sinkhole happened, it brought reality back. We actually have problems in the area.” “I’ve never seen a sinkhole before. It’s been a year. And the land continues to sink. And to me, it’s just a matter of time before it gets to my house. [MUSIC PLAYING] I don’t know if it’s ever going to be fixed to be honest with you.” “It’s a completely different world over there. It’s like a tidal wave hit and that’s what was left over. It’s just so much more than this land and the house. It’s part of me.” “This is a good place to live, isn’t it buddy? You get those houses over there who were subject to this sinkhole. By next month, they’ll be rebuilt and the people will move back in. And it’s the way The Villages life is. Perfect living in The Villages.”

By Lance Oppenheim

Mr. Oppenheim is a filmmaker.

The Villages is a world of its own. About an hour north of Orlando, Fla., the huge retirement community — which is so large that it contains its own shopping, dining and health care facilities — has lured more than 130,000 seniors with meticulously groomed grounds and a simulacrum of American yesteryear. Residents are immersed in a self-contained society defined by free time, recreation and the blissful opportunity to ignore the outside world.

But as this senior utopia continues to expand, transforming adjoining pastures and wetlands into golf courses and tract housing, it also threatens the way of life of its neighbors, who may feel they have little choice but to sell their property and move. And Villages residents themselves are confronted with the very forces they have tried to ignore. Cracks, both literal and metaphysical, have upset the foundation of the community.

The short documentary above explores the psychological impact of living in a palm-fringed bubble, as well as the effects of overdevelopment on those living outside the white picket fence. Oppenheim’s feature-length documentary about The Villages, “Some Kind of Heaven,” is co-produced by The New York Times.

Lance Oppenheim is a filmmaker from South Florida and the director of “Some Kind of Heaven.”

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