The Art of Downsizing

For the first time in North America older adults will soon outnumber children. The Art of Downsizing brings this game-changing reality to life through the stories of a diverse group of seniors looking to future-proof the next chapter of their lives.

Once the perfect fifties housewife, Barb, 79, is selling the house she entertained in, raised children in – and more recently, lost her husband in. Bill, 62, is digging himself out from under an avalanche of inherited antiques that weigh heavily on his heart and soul. And then there’s Kathleen, the effervescent matriarch who struts into her 90th birthday party like Beyonce at the Superbowl, but is brought to her knees when she must part with her most sentimental souvenir to make space for her changing physical needs.

Who am I without my belongings? What shapes me – the real or the ideal? Do I own my possessions, or do they own me? Ushering in a new era of longer lives and the desire for more independent living, The Art of Downsizing unearths some of the difficult choices and liberating opportunities that lie ahead for a new generation of seniors with something other than the past in mind.

  • Geeta Sondhi
    Director
    100 and Counting: Secrets to a Long Life, Stand Up Toronto
  • Geeta Sondhi
    Writer
    100 and Counting: Secrets to a Long Life, Stand Up Toronto
  • Geeta Sondhi
    Producer
    100 and Counting: Secrets to a Long Life, Neat, Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel, Becoming 13, Some Kind of Arrangement
  • Editor
    Crew
    Bruce Lapointe
  • Cinematographer
    Crew
    Gurjeet Mann
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Runtime:
    42 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 8, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    282,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    Canada
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
    1920:1080
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Silver Scenes Film Festival
    Toronto
    Canada
    November 5, 2020
  • World Fest Houston
    Houston
    April 25, 2021
    Finalist
  • Broadcast in Japan on NHK - Coming in May 2021
  • Broadcast in Sweden on UR coming in 2022
Distribution Information
  • Films Transit International - Jan Rofekamp
    Distributor
    Country: Canada
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Geeta Sondhi

Geeta cut her teeth at the National Film Board's infamous feminist Studio “D” working with luminaries of the documentary world. The Art of Downsizing is in keeping with her intimate verite approach of getting to the heart of a social issue through raw, emotional, character-driven narratives. Geeta's recent directing credits include multiple Golden Sheaf winner and NFB Kathleen Shannon Award nominee Stand Up Toronto about three racialized comics striving to make it on their own terms (TVO, The Doc Channel - 2018). Her award-winning viral hit 100 and Counting: Secrets to a Long Life about a couple of centenarians got over 27 million Facebook views (CBC Short Docs - 2016).

Geeta has produced a number of celebrated indie docs including Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel about gentrification (TVO-Bravo!); Some Kind of Arrangement, a modern take on arranged marriages (NFB-CBC); and Becoming 13 about mother-daughter relationships (NFB-CBC). She co-created and produced the international hit series Neat (HGTV-Discovery US) about a professional organizer on a mission to tidy up homes and lives, and has directed seasons of lifestyle programming.

Geeta programmed films for TIFF, managed funding programs for the OMDC, served as head of Business and Legal Affairs for Associated Producers and pioneered web programming for Extend Media.

Select awards include multiple Gemini nominations including one for the prestigious Donald Britain Award, Several Golden Sheaf wins, a “Best of Fest” citation at Yorkton, a nomination for the NFB’s Kathleen Shannon Award, a Gold Cindy, a Gold Remi, a California International Shorts Best Doc Award and a Chris Award. Her work has broadcast around the world. Originally from Kenya, Geeta was educated in Vancouver at SFU and in Montreal at McGill where she graduated with an honors degree in Film and Communications. An active industry member, Geeta resides in Toronto.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

The Art of Downsizing hits close to home. A few years ago I helped my mum in her mid-eighties to scale down in anticipation of the next decade. We did it while my dad was out of town.

Much like Kathleen, Barb and Bill, this was something that had been churning in my mum’s mind for some time. We dropped off bags at the Sally Ann and cleaned out the garage.

We took a digital tour of possible retirement destinations and even did the math on a place that others from my mum’s community were targeting. That was tough. For a day we puttered around in relative silence as we took in the fact that the places she preferred were unaffordable.

Back in the day (long before Marie Kondo!) I had produced a series about people and their possessions from the point-of-view of a personal organizer. What I learned was that no matter how smooth you think things are going, there’s always a ‘hot-spot’ that’s going to stop you in your tracks.

Our hot spot was my mum’s harmonium – it harbored the memory of my family’s migration from India to Kenya before branching out across the UK, Germany, the US and Canada. The songs played on that harmonium were our legacy from a soundtrack that hadn’t been recorded, that carried our history and tied us all together. It felt like losing this integral part of our lives would be like losing a family member.

And then we found a young man from my mum’s community who composes fusion music that combines songs from my grandmother’s generation with new compositions. He even knew a song from Zanzibar that combines Gujurati and Swahili. My mum could never play the harmonium again, that we knew – and giving it away to a good home was the right thing to do.

The young man came over with his dad. Rush hour was looming but they stayed for tea and snacks. In Kenya and in India there’s a lot of respect for older people and their respect for my mum and for the history of this particular harmonium fed our souls and put our fears to rest.

The Art of Downsizing, like most of my work, starts light and goes deep. It's predicated on the intimate relationships I established with Bill, Barb and Kathleen, three seniors who allowed me to film their intensely private struggles to prepare for their final years on their own terms. Similarly, for 100 and Counting: Secrets to a Long Life, I spent many teatimes in the iconic living room where the matriarch and patriarch of a large clan held court. As with all my films, I spoke to the characters and got to know their family and friends, constantly searching for that ‘hot spot' and taking the time to ‘feel’ the subject, till I understood the larger meaning behind small gestures. The pay-off was twenty seven million views on facebook and messages from all corners of the world.

I go to these lengths to establish intimacy because I believe that the ultimate expression of strength is an ability to feel and pass through vulnerability. Somewhere in that shadow play between vulnerability and strength, the true magic of cinema surfaces and the emotional power of verite allows us to see ourselves as it makes itself known.