Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Gary Burns (Kitchen Party) and journalist Jim Brown, Radiant City is an 85 minute documentary about North American suburban sprawl. Reviewed in yesterday’s New York Post by V.A. Musetto (who gives it three stars; it was also reviewed in the Times back on April 13 by Stephen Holden, who observed that “[t]he film brings the angst of Richard Yate’s novel Revolutionary Road into the 21st Century”), the film “consider[s] what happens when cities get sick and mutate.” The filmmakers- both of whom have ties to Calgary, Alberta- titled the picture after Le Corbusier’s theory of urban planning, which imagined isolated clusters of suburban enclaves connected by highways and totally subservient to the automobile. Brown calls this “the worst possible idea at the worst possible time,” and Radiant City addresses “how sprawl is a factor in our culture.” The press notes tease that “[s]prawl is eating the planet. Across the continent the landscape is being leveled- blasted clean of distinctive features and overlaid with zombie monoculture. Politicians call it growth. Developers call it business. The Moss family call it home.” The picture follows this middle-class family as it guides the filmmakers on a tour of their neighborhood; from the father’s soul-crushing two-hour one-way commute to next-door neighbors that they never see. These issues sound awfully familiar to those that Jaime Lerner has been fighting against since first becoming mayor of Curitiba back in 1972- as Lerner posits, green buildings are simply not enough.
Anyway, for a sprawl primer in advance of checking out Radiant City, I’ll direct you to Preston’s post over at Jetson Green about this critical and fascinating issue from a few weeks ago. I have not seen the film yet- it’s playing downtown at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater on Avenue A and Third Street in the East Village (one showing only at 9PM, not rated)- so if you get to it before me, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
- Keeping Up with the Zones (NY Post)
- Radiant City
- Five Commandments of Sustainability (gbNYC)
- Top Ten Problems with Sprawl (Jetson Green)