King of Caravans/A Story for the Modlins

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Two formally refined excursions into eccentric personal domains. One’s in Madrid, the other in Whanganui.

Year: 2013
Country: New Zealand, Spain
Running time: 51 mins

King of Caravans
Photography: Gareth Moon, Simon Burgin
Editors: Costa Botes
Music: Peter Hobbs
25 minutes/Blu-ray

A Story for the Modlins
Director/Producer: Sergio Oksman
Screenplay: Carlos Muguiro, Emilo Tomé, Sergio Oksman
Photography: Migue Amoedo
Editors: Fernando Franco, Sergio Oksman
Sound: Carlos Bonmatí, Iñaki Sánchez
Narrator: Trent Cohn
26 minutes/HDCAM

We pair two short documentaries inviting us into two very odd, very different personal domains. Zoe McIntosh introduces us to Peter One, King of Caravans, and his realm, the Bignell Street Motel Caravan Park in Whanganui. Bignell Street has a reputation for being a place of last resort for the down and out, where people with nowhere else to go can always find a caravan roof for their heads. A social butterfly and a self-admitted garage sale addict, motel manager Peter says he acts as a de facto social worker to the weird and wonderful itinerant inhabitants of his trailer park, although some claim he’s just as strange and desperate as they are.

One morning in 2003 Spanish filmmaker Sergio Oksman found the remnants of another eccentric enclave: hundreds of photographs, documents and videotapes dumped on a Madrid sidewalk. Combing through the materials, Oksman pieces together A Story for the Modlins, a family of American expats who had lived a strange and isolated existence shut up inside a dark Madrid apartment for  30 years. — Michael McDonnell