DUSP Urban Planning Movie Marathon
Schedule and Program Notes

IAP 2012:
January 31, Noon-Midnight
MIT Advanced Visualization Theater (AVT), Room 7-431

Schedule (all times approximate)

12:00 Noon Urbanized (2011, Gary Hustwit, 85 min)
1:30 PM Liquid City (2007, Matthew Gandy, 30 minutes)
2:00 PM Big City 1980 (1961, CBS Television, 53 min [excerpt])
2:30 PM Waste Land (2010, Lucy Walker, 99 min)
4:30 PM Radiant City (2006, Jim Brown and Gary Burns, 93 min)
6:20 PM Playtime (1967, Jacques Tati, 155 minutes)
9:10 PM The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1988, Whyte, 60 min)
10:20 PM At Home in Utopia (2011, Michal Goldman, 57 min)
11:20 PM Brooklyn Matters (2007, Isabel Hill, 50 min)

Film Descriptions and Notes


2011, Gary Hustwit, 85 min

Urbanized is a feature-length documentary about the design of cities, which looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design and features some of the world's foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers. Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren't created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact improving the cities in which they live. By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities.

Urbanized is the third part of Gary Hustwit's design film trilogy, joining Helvetica and Objectified.

Liquid City

Matthew Gandy, 2007, 30 minutes

The tortuous flow of water through Mumbai presents one of the most striking indicators of persistent social inequalities within the globalizing metropolis. The documentary film Liquid City explores the complexity of water politics in Mumbai ranging from the engineering challenge of transferring nearly 3,000 million liters of water a day to the city from the jungles, lakes and mountains of the state of Maharashtra to debates over flooding, privatization and social conflict. The film is based on a unique collaboration between academics and film makers based in London and Mumbai and combines in-depth interviews with activists, engineers, local residents and other voices to paint a unique picture of this vibrant and fast changing city.

Big City 1980 with Garry Moore

1961, CBS Television, 53 min [excerpt]

In 1961, as part of their ``Tomorrow'' series, CBS television produced this hour-long documentary in conjunction with MIT, featuring a conversation between Dean John E. Burchard and host Garry Moore as they consider the world 20 years in the future of 1980, with twice as many urban dwellers. They take Philadelphia and Brasilia as examples to illustrate how a city could be transformed.

Note: Due to time constraints, we will only be screening the first half of this video, on Brasilia. Luckily, the entire show can be see online via TechTV.

Waste Land

2010, Lucy Walker, 99 min

Filmed over nearly three years, Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world's largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of ``catadores''--or self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz's initial objective was to ``paint'' the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both dignity and despair as the catadores begin to re-imagine their lives. Walker has great access to the entire process and, in the end, offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit. Nominated for an Academy Award; winner of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival for best documentary.

Radiant City

Jim Brown and Gary Burns, 2006, 93 min

Gary Burns, Canada's king of surreal comedy, joins journalist Jim Brown on an outing to the suburbs. Venturing into territory both familiar and foreign, they turn the documentary genre inside out, crafting a vivid account of life in The Late Suburban Age. A chorus of cultural prophets provide insight on the spectacle. James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere, rails against the brutalizing aesthetic of strip malls. Philosopher Joseph Heath fears the soul-eating suburbs but admits they offer good value for money. And urban planner Beverly Sandalack dares to ask, Why can't we walk anywhere anymore?


1967, Jacques Tati, 155 minutes

Jacques Tati's gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in the age of technology reached their creative apex with Playtime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the endearingly clumsy, resolutely old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modernist Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, Playtime is a lasting testament to a modern age tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion.

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

1988, William H. Whyte, 60 min

This witty and original film is about the open spaces of cities and why some of them work for people while others don't. Beginning at New York's Seagram Plaza, one of the most used open areas in the city, the film proceeds to analyze why this space is so popular and how other urban oases, both in New York and elsewhere, measure up. Based on direct observation of what people actually do, the film presents a remarkably engaging and informative tour of the urban landscape and looks at how it can be made more hospitable to those who live in it.

At Home in Utopia

2011, Michal Goldman, 57 min

In the mid-1920s, thousands of Jewish immigrant garment workers managed to catapult themselves out of urban slums and ghettos by pooling their resources and building four cooperatively owned and run apartment complexes in the Bronx. They believed that owning one's home went a long way toward controlling one's fate.

At Home in Utopia focuses on the United Workers Cooperative Colony--aka ``the Coops''--the most grass-roots and member-driven of the Jewish labor housing cooperatives, where many of the residents were Communists or sympathetic to the communist movement. Beginning as a stalwartly secular East European Jewish working class enclave, they were part of an international movement the power of which blows minds today.

Brooklyn Matters

2007, Isabel Hill, 50 min

Brooklyn Matters is a riveting look at how big real estate, politics, community voices, and the desperate need for jobs and housing clash in one of the largest development proposals in the history of New York City. The film poses vital, timely questions that are relevant to cities across the country: What is the proper use of eminent domain? What role does environmental and economic justice play in government-sponsored projects? Who represents the community? What and who determines if an area is ``blighted?'' Brooklyn Matters brings a depth of expert commentary to the debate and introduces many important community voices that have struggled to be heard on this project. This film's exploration of the risks that come with a concentration of power is important for anyone concerned with who has a voice and who has a vote in shaping the future of our cities.


  1. Most film descriptions excerpted/lifted from relevant websites or backs of packages.

  2. On behalf of the organizers of the marathon, we'd like to especially thank Heather McCann in Rotch Library for assistance locating films and rights for this event, as well as the excellent Prelinger Archive for public domain shorts and other films.

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DUSP Urban Planning Movie Marathon
Schedule and Program Notes

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