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Welcome to Elgin Park: A Miniature 1950s Utopia

Feb 23, 2015 | 831 videos
Video by Danny Yourd, Animal East

Michael Paul Smith, a reclusive model builder, doesn't seem to enjoy talking about his childhood. In this short documentary about the remarkably detailed town he built by hand, Smith alludes to memories of bullying, violence, and dark family secrets. Elgin Park is a "dreamlike recreation" of his past, he says, polished with the glossy sheen of mid-century suburbia.

Filmmaker Danny Yourd zeroes in on this tension, drawing it out through the relationship between Smith's childhood and his models. Smith is a charming presence on screen; his warm smile elides those painful experiences, even as he explains how they help inspire his work. And while his miniaturized scenes occasionally feature tragedies, the substance of each tragedy isn't the point. "I created Elgin Park so anybody can be there," he says.

This summer, Smith will publish a book of his Elgin Park photographs. It's now available for pre-order. To see more of his work, visit his Flickr page.

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Author: Chris Heller

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.