Director Gary Hustwit has an impressive track record when it comes to exploring the world of design. His popular essay films Helvetica and Objectified profiled the makers of graphics and household objects, respectively, by combining smart interviews with stylish cinematography. His latest film completes a design trilogy and hits even closer to home by looking at cities. In Urbanized, we meet architects, politicians, city planners, activists and others who bring fresh approaches to urban living. The film presents invigorating new strategies for meeting the challenges faced by populations that are expanding (like Mumbai) and shrinking (like Detroit).
City planning has inspired many great writers — from Jane Jacobs to Rem Koolhaas, who are both covered in Urbanized — but not as many filmmakers. Yet cinema has a great advantage, as Hustwit demonstrates by transporting us around the world to visually experience urban projects. In Santiago, the architect Alejandro Aravena tours new models for low-income housing. In Cape Town, landscape architect Tarna Klitzner explains how better walking paths in the Khayelitsha township helped reduce violence by forty per cent. In New Orleans, the artist Candy Chang solicits local input, placing stickers on abandoned buildings that read “I Wish This Was…” In Bogotá, mayor Enrique Peñalosa implements a plan to put public transportation ahead of private automobiles. Describing his mission, he quotes the Colombian constitution, which stipulates, “All citizens are equal before the law.” As Peñalosa pointedly adds, “This is not just poetry.”
Over half of today’s world population lives in cities; demographers expect that number to rise to seventy-five per cent by 2050. Urbanized looks at how governments implement decisions from the top down, but also how movements can rise from the bottom up. In Detroit, residents of a blighted neighbourhood clear vacant lots to plant vegetable gardens. In Stuttgart, protestors fight a plan to clear 200-year-old trees for new buildings. Hustwit’s film inspires us to look more carefully at our cities and become active in shaping their future. –TIFF
Gary Hustwit is an independent filmmaker based in New York and London. He has produced and directed a number of documentaries including the 2007 film Helvetica.
A former independent publisher and Vice President of Salon.com, he is the founder, along with Sean Anderson, of Plexifilm, an independent DVD label and film production company. Hustwit is best known for his Design Trilogy which is composed of the documentaries Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanized. The trilogy deals with aspects of graphic design, typography, industrial design, architecture and urban planning. He said in an interview in Dwell magazine: “I like the idea of taking a closer look at the things we take for granted and changing the way people think about them, whether it’s type or objects or whatever”.
He was nominated for the 2008 Independent Spirit “Truer Than Fiction” Award for Helvetica. —Wikipedia
Out of all of the films in Hustwit's thematic trilogy of design I found this one to be the most engaging and I wished it was slightly longer.
Ambitious, interesting documentary on modern urban planning pointing out failures of the past, history and hopes for the future. By examining various cities around the world and projecting that 75% of us will live in them by 2050 it is quite sobering to realize we may not be able to sustain it without planning now. Not all doom and gloom however as we visit urban planners and activists. Well worth a watch.
Completing the trilogy begun with Helvetica and Objectified, Hustwit goes macro.