Doc Star of the Month: Barbara Lochiatto, 'Some Kind of Heaven'
The Villages, which bills itself as “Florida’s friendliest hometown,” has made news in recent years not for its supposed status as an adult retirement community utopia, but for being a loud and proud, geriatric MAGA stronghold. (Though the age 55-and-up place also made headlines just prior to the presidential election for a rumored pro-Biden turn against Trump.) Fortunately, first-time feature filmmaker Lance Oppenheim decided to set all politics aside when venturing into this heart of Disneyfied darkness. Instead, Oppenheim opted to craft Some Kind of Heaven, an exquisite character study centered around several of the paradise-branded town’s denizens, who struggle with everything from drug addiction, to Peter Pan syndrome, to looking for love in all the wrong places. Indeed, for those seeking eternal youth—specifically the existential hell of being a teenager—it seems The Villages really does live up to its hype.
One of those intrepid residents in the doc spotlight is Barbara Lochiatto, a Bostonian who relocated to The Villages over a decade ago with her husband, Paul. But rather than partaking in the golden years dream as initially intended, Lochiatto soon found herself a grieving widow, adrift in a sea of fake nails and customized golf carts. Living side-by-side with folks she often has little in common with, and financially unable either to retire or return to the northeast, Lochiatto seems condemned to a sunny purgatory. She’s a down-to-earth fish-out-of -water whiling away her days in a manically upbeat facade in central Florida.
And yet Lochiatto is also innately “Boston strong,” willing to place herself in all manner of emotionally fraught situations, from bowling leagues and singles clubs to the crosshairs of a documentarian’s lens. Which is why Documentary is truly pleased that Lochiatto found time in her busy social schedule to be our January Doc Star of the Month. (Some Kind of Heaven is available in theaters and on demand through Magnolia Pictures starting January 15.)
DOCUMENTARY: So how did you first meet Lance and his team and become involved in the film?
BARBARA LOCHIATTO: I met Lance and the team in the acting class I was attending every other Friday night in The Villages. We just seemed to gravitate toward each other. And how perfect that was for me because it gave me the honor of being a part of this film! It really just started out as his thesis—and then turned into this magical documentary.
D: But was it at all awkward having the camera around? Did you set specific limits on what the crew could shoot?
BL: No, it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. It was a dream to be in front of cameras! The crew could shoot anything they wanted, really. There were no limits from me.
D: Watching the film, I was both startled and touched by your raw vulnerability, your ability to wear your heart on your sleeve. Actors spend years trying to develop this skill. Does that just come natural to you, or was there something about the filmmaking team that allowed you to let down your guard?
BL: I have to be honest with you—I have wanted to be an actress since I was a small child. I always knew and felt inside that I could have become well known because it’s something that’s inside me. It comes naturally to me.
I was in a play once back in Boston. The director asked me to change something and I did so immediately. Later he said, "That's what I love about you, Barbara. All I have to do is ask just once and you can do it.” I’m quite proud of that.
My goal now is to try to get something semi-professional or professional on stage or in film. Over and over again I have gotten sidetracked from my dream—which I take responsibility for. But no more. It's about me now. I would be glad to try anything if it was a chance to fulfill my destiny. I could probably act 24 hours a day if necessary because that’s something that would make me happy. On a side note, my mother was absolutely beautiful—a singer who also acted but had stage fright. It’s interesting that I don’t.
D: So were you performing a version of yourself for the camera, or was the documentary experience fundamentally different from doing a play?
BL: No, except for the monologue in the acting class, that was me, honest and raw. Doing the documentary was different. It gave me the opportunity to be real, to be myself. Whereas in a play I become someone else.
D: So which scenes from the doc are your favorites? Are there any you find particularly difficult to watch?
BL: My favorite is just watching my dog and cat getting fresh with each other—and also the scene where I perform my monologue. That’s something I’m very proud of.
Really the only scenes that make me uncomfortable are at the mini-golf and the country club, where I am a little heavy! I am 20 pounds or so less now, but like my mother used to say, “Whatcha gonna do, babe?”
D: Has involvement in the film affected your life in any meaningful way? Has it perhaps increased your desire to appear onscreen again? Has it changed any relationships with your neighbors?
BL: I guess I have hope, for the first time in many years, that someone might see me and want to give me a try for a commercial or a role somewhere. Either stage or screen. I am holding down so many emotions inside of me; I feel I could put all that into my acting.
The movie has really fueled my desire more than ever to act. I also have a very unusual sense of humor; I keep people in stitches at my work. The people here are actually very proud and excited for me, and friends are as well. All I can say is that I am willing to try out for anything. Maybe there is a chance for success.
Lauren Wissot is a film critic and journalist, filmmaker and programmer, and a contributing editor at both Filmmaker magazine and Documentary magazine. She's served as the director of programming at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, and has written for Salon, Bitch, The Rumpus and Hammer to Nail.