“Charm City” review on CityLab

Check out the Atlantic’s CityLab for my latest review of Charm City, a new documentary by Marilyn Ness set on the streets of Baltimore.

Thus, while the film is full of the clich├ęs and conventions of both police procedurals and “poverty-porn,” the overall experience is refreshingly new. Viewers are neither titillated nor terrorized, but are instead invited to take their time and actually experience these places and interactions, reflecting on how they are lived and felt by the people in the documentary….


See CityLab for the full review.

“The World Before Your Feet” review on CityLab

The Atlantic’s CityLab features my review of Jeremy Workman’s new documentary, THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET. Click, read, watch, share.

As he describes his current project on his blog “I’m Just Walkin’,” it’s a natural, deeper “counterpoint” to his cross-country walk: “Instead of seeing a million places for just a minute each, I’m going to spend a million minutes exploring just one place.” What emerges is a kind of plain-spoken psychogeography, an honest fascination with the details of life and the little mysteries of the city….


See CityLab for the full review.

“The Experimental City” review on NextCity

My latest op-ed on NextCity discusses THE EXPERIMENTAL CITY, a new documentary by Chad Freidrichs (THE PRUIT-IGOE MYTH). The film explores the lost history of a futuristic attempt to solve urban problems by creating a full-size city from scratch in the isolated woods of northern Minnesota.

Freidrichs has assembled a comprehensive collection of “tomorrow land” visuals and presents them in a visually luxurious symphony of future urbanism: 1960s colors and Jetsonian optimism combine to maximum effect, the visual equivalent of an Esquivel record re-mixed by Steven Soderbergh. The colors, typefaces, film stock, effects and even the static buzz-and-pop of pre-digital hi-fi are all perfectly matched….

Click here for to read.

Meowtropolis: Review of “Kedi” (New York Observer)

My review of Ceyda Torun’s 2016 documentary KEDI is now out in The New York Observer.


Everyone in the neighborhood has a favorite cat—they give them names, personalities, entire narratives. Strangely—beautifully—in anthropomorphizing the cats, residents themselves are humanized in the exchange. One senses that Istanbul is a more caring, communal, functional city thanks to the influence of these strays. There is a lesson here: while cats are independent in spirit, they are also fundamentally social at heart. As such, they the perfect urban dwellers: self-sufficient, but also trusting; adventurous and bold, yet still careful and cautious; curiosity mixed with consideration.

See here for the complete review.

(UrbanFilm web extra! If you enjoy the story of Istanbul’s street cats in KEDI, you might also enjoy the 2013 documentary-essay TASKAFA: Stories of the Street, by Andrea Luka Zimmerman, which follows the tales of the cities stray dogs.))

“Behemoth” review on CityLab

The Atlantic’s CityLab features my review of the Zhao Liang’s hauntingly meditative documentary, Behemoth. Click, read, watch, share.

[R]ather than focus close-in on the maw of this insatiable beast, Zhao places his lens at a quiet and safe remove. The effect, however, is not to deliver security, but instead to emphasize scale, an even more distressing aspect of the devastation shown. One explosion may be terrifying, but a relentless series of detonations over thousands of acres becomes almost mundane, a banality of evil. The very vastness inures us to the horror of watching a valley turned into a wasteland, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.


See CityLab for the full review.