Lance Oppenheim, based at Harvard the past three years, has never let his camera stray too far from a sense of home.
A junior concentrating in Visual and Environmental Studies, Oppenheim will premiere his latest film, “The Happiest Guy in the World,” at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday. The 10-minute documentary gives a glimpse into the life of Mario Salcedo, who has lived aboard a cruise ship for two decades.
“Adopting a cruise-ship life is basically escaping from reality,” Salcedo says in the film. “You are basically exiting the world as you know it on land and you are saying, ‘I don’t want to be a part of it anymore.’ I want to create my own little world and I want to be away from all the issues that come up with being on land.”
In an email interview, Salcedo said Oppenheim offered him a unique opportunity.
“How could you turn down a Harvard student? I would regret it later. There was no doubt in my mind, as our conversations progressed before the project was launched, that Lance was truly passionate about undertaking this assignment.”
Oppenheim’s enthusiasm for film began in his own swampy backyard. Growing up in Southwest Ranches, Fla., he found the perfect setting for his budding movie obsession in the Everglades.
“Since I was 6, I would spend hours watching movies and music videos, memorizing extremely trivial information about production budgets and MPAA ratings,” said Oppenheim, who as a fourth-grader dressed up as Steven Spielberg, as opposed to, say, E.T., for Halloween. “While other kids were going out for sports teams and trading ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ cards, I was already a 40-year-old, fedora-wearing film snob.
“Growing up on a faux-ranch swamp populated by cows, I was always fascinated by how many Floridas existed outside of the romanticized, sunny Florida image. It seemed like there were so many stranger-than-fiction stories, and that trying to do justice to someone else’s story would be far more interesting than attempting to rip off my favorite Darren Aronofsky movies.”