Every January, MIT suspends regular classes and hold the “Independent Activity Period,” or IAP. In recognition of this season, our ongoing Urban Planning Film Series continues with a twist: since there are no classes, problem sets, or other distractions to contend with, all month long the series will feature some of the great long (or even super-long) films.
All films open to the general public, free, first-come/first-served; many shows include previews, shorts, and/or other video emphera. Special thanks to MIT’s Rotch Library for help tracking down titles and rights and MIT A/V Services for troubleshooting the tech with us.
- WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE (2006): Subtitled “A Requiem in Four Acts,” Spike Lee’s heart-rending portrait of New Orleans in the wake of the destruction manages to be both intimate and epic. Originally aired as a four-part HBO miniseries, the film tells the heartbreaking personal stories of those who endured this harrowing ordeal and survived to tell the tale of misery, despair and triumph. The documentary looks at a community that has survived death, devastation and disease at every turn. Yet, somehow, amidst the ruins, the people of New Orleans are finding new hope and strength as the city rises from the ashes, buoyed by their own resilience and a rich cultural legacy. In the words of the director, “New Orleans is fighting for its life. These are not people who will disappear quietly—they’re accustomed to hardship and slights, and they’ll fight for New Orleans.” Directed by Spike Lee, 255 minutes. Thur 1/17, 2pm, MIT Room 3-133
- HALF THE SKY (2012): Originally aired as a four-hour television series for PBS and international broadcast, shot in 10 countries (Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and the U.S.), this epic work—based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn—introduces women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable, and fighting bravely to change them. Traveling with intrepid reporter Nicholas Kristof and “A-list” celebrity advocates Meg Ryan, America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde, the film reflects viable and sustainable options for empowerment and offers an actionable blueprint for transformation. Directed by Maro Chermayeff, 240 minutes. Thurs 1/24, 2pm, MIT Room 3-133
- PUBLIC HOUSING (1997): This cinema-verite documentary captures daily life at the Ida B.~Wells public housing development in Chicago. The film illustrates some of the experiences of people living in conditions of extreme poverty. The events shown include the work of the tenants council, street life, the role of police, job training programs, drug education, teenage mothers, dysfunctional families, elderly residents, nursery school and after school teenage programs and the activities of the city, state and federal governments in maintaining and changing public housing. “…Wiseman salts his film with example after example of pride and enterprise. For every long-lens shot of men on the corner snorting cocaine, there are shots of chess games, sewing circles and laundry hung lovingly on the line. For every bureaucratese-speaking clerk from CHA, there is a sympathetic plumber or a roach exterminator who can’t do enough for an appreciative tenant…. Frederick Wiseman … has an eye for subtle social distinctions” (John McCarron, The Chicago Tribune).
As a special treat, the film also contains what filmmaker Errol Morris has described as one the best condom demonstration in film history (“Fred has a gift for filming condom demonstrations…”). Directed by Fred Wiseman, 195 minutes. Thurs 1/31, 2pm, MIT Room 3-133