Life Off Grid
85 minutes, Canada, 2015
Off-grid isn’t a state of mind. It isn’t about being out of touch, living in a remote place, or turning off your mobile phone. Off-grid simply means living without a connection to the electric and natural gas infrastructure. To live off-grid, therefore, means to radically re-invent daily life in a dramatically innovative but also quite traditional way. From 2011 to 2013 Jonathan Taggart (Director) and Phillip Vannini (Producer) spent two years travelling across Canada to find off-gridders and visit them in their homes. Following the ethnographic tradition sometimes they lived with them for a short period of time. Sometimes they followed them around as they hunted, fished, harvested, collected wood, and built their homes. And at times they too practiced living in off-grid homes and cabins. Over two years Taggart and Vannini visited about 100 homes and interviewed about 200 off-grid Canadians, as well as many American and British expats living in Canada. They met off-gridders in every single province and territory and through their film they narrated their travels and chronicled in depth the experiences, challenges, inventions, aspirations, and ways of life of some of them.
To make their travel and encounters with off-gridders possible Taggart and Vannini had to fly on dozens of planes, ride snowmobiles, paddle kayaks and canoes, don show-shoes, ride ATVs, sail ferries and small boats, drive on ice roads and city streets, and bike and trek across many regions of the country. Their documentary film renders the intensity of that experience through the style of a travelogue. But their film isn’t just a road story. Their encounters with off-gridders young and old, far and near, and rich and poor, have inspired them to reflect not only about off-grid life in itself, but also to question our collective, modern, on-grid way of life. This is a film on disconnection as much as it is on everything we all take for granted about the modern condition and its comforts, conveniences, and connectivity.
Off-gridders are often the subject of stereotypes. Hippies, hermits, outlaws, rebels, misfits—these are just some of the labels applied to them. But their filmic portraits reveal a different picture, one that is less sensational, less radical, and more nuanced and subtle. Their intimate encounters show off-gridders to be individuals who care about their family and their environment, about their homes, communities, and their place in the world. Off-gridders’ experiences show us what it means to question how we all procure and consume energy, food, and water, and more broadly what we can all do to rely more on renewable resources and technologies. Without romanticizing their struggles or glossing over their troubles this film shows in detail both why and how people live off the grid, revealing whether this might even be the future way of life for all of us.
Director(s): Jonathan Taggart
Producer(s): Phillip Vannini, Jonathan Taggart