In 1968, Charles Bello and his wife Vanna Rae bought 400 acres of redwood forested land in Mendocino County and have spent the last 50 years creating a self-sustaining utopia. Working diligently year-after-year, the couple created the infrastructure for a completely off-the-grid compound that is both comfortable and beautiful. They bought the land for $2,800. Now, the house and accompanying acreage is worth $6 million.
A new short documentary highlights the twilight years of Charles, who continues to live in his off-the-grid redwood oasis in Northern California. The film dives deep into the mind of this trailblazing architect. Watch it here:
Here’s a description of the film from Psyche:
Charles Belloâ€™s life is a testament to the fact that thereâ€™s no single way to measure success â€“ or the sum of hard work. As a young man, Bello lived in Los Angeles, working for the influential modernist architect Richard Neutra. It was a prestigious position that left Bello utterly unfulfilled â€“ a â€˜creativeâ€™ job that involved no creative work.
After leaving to build his own â€˜speculation housesâ€™ without ready buyers in mind, he found that prospective customers loved his designs, but were less enthusiastic about actually inhabiting the somewhat precarious-looking structures. Disenchanted by urban life and struggling to make ends meet, Bello and his late wife, Vanna Rae Bello, boughtÂ 400 acresÂ in a remote, redwood-covered stretch of northern California and started a family together.
â€˜Twoâ€™s a multitude â€¦ one alone is not fun,â€™ Bello offers in the short documentaryÂ A Little Piece of Earth, which finds him, atÂ age 86,Â 10 yearsÂ widowed, but still driven by a desire to keep a small slice of the planet all his own. His voice is good-humoured but touched with melancholy as he reminisces about building an off-the-grid life from the ground up alongside his wife, and without outside obstruction. And yet, resigned that heâ€™ll never find another love comparable to Vanna and unsure what will become of their beloved Bello Ranch, heâ€™s able to shake off depression by living out the mantra â€˜be active, and be creative, and be alive.â€™
The US director Ryan Malloy crafts a moving account of Belloâ€™s twilight years in his short documentary. Deploying sweeping shots of Belloâ€™s serene architecture, built to look as if itâ€™s sprouted from the soil of the scenic northern Californian landscape, Malloy blurs the lines between person and place, crafting a poignant portrait of a singular life.