Happy September and welcome (back) to the new school year. We’ve finalized the line-up for our Fall 2014 MIT Urban Planning Film Series, listed below. This semester, we’ll be featuring an earthquake in China, a rebellion in Newark, informal housing in NYC, and ending the semester with a special showing of Roberto Rossellini’s 1945 classic, ROME OPEN CITY. We continue our partnership with PBS/POV American Documentary to bring some special community screenings to the Boston area.
- Thur 9/4 FALLEN CITY (2014): In today’s go-go China, an old city completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake can be rebuilt — boasting new and improved civic amenities — in an astoundingly quick two years. But, as FALLEN CITY reveals, the journey from the ruined old city of Beichuan to the new Beichuan nearby is long and heartbreaking for the survivors. Three families struggle with loss — most strikingly the loss of children and grandchildren — and feelings of loneliness, fear and dislocation that no amount of propaganda can disguise. First-time director Qi Zhao offers an intimate look at a country torn between tradition and modernity. Official Selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. A co-production of ITVS International. A co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). Directed by Qi Zhao; presented in collaboration with the award-winning documentary series PBS/POV American Documentary. 60 minutes. 6pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thur 9/18 REVOLUTION ’67 (2007): An illuminating account the black urban rebellions of the 1960s. Focusing on the six-day Newark, N.J., outbreak in mid-July, REVOLUTION ’67 reveals how the disturbances began as spontaneous revolts against poverty and police brutality and ended as fateful milestones in America’s struggles over race and economic justice. Voices from across the spectrum—activists Tom Hayden and Amiri Baraka, journalist Bob Herbert, Mayor Sharpe James, and other officials, National Guardsmen, and Newark citizens—recall lessons as hard-earned then as they have been easy to neglect since. A co-production with the Independent Television Service (ITVS); presented in collaboration with the award-winning documentary series PBS/POV American Documentary. 90 minutes. 6pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thur 10/2 KOCH (2012): New York City mayors have a world stage on which to strut, and they have made legendary use of it. Yet few have matched the bravado, combativeness and egocentricity that Ed Koch brought to the office during his three terms from 1978 to 1989. As Neil Barsky’s KOCH recounts, Koch was more than the blunt, funny man New Yorkers either loved or hated. Elected in the 1970s during the city’s fiscal crisis, he was a new Democrat for the dawning Reagan era—fiscally conservative and socially liberal. KOCH finds the former mayor politically active to the end (he died in 2013)—still winning the affection of many New Yorkers while driving others to distraction. Directed by Neil Barasky; presented in collaboration with the award-winning documentary series PBS/POV American Documentary. 90 minutes. 6pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thur 10/9: DARK DAYS (2000) Independent filmmaker Marc Singer explores the underground world inhabited by residents of New York’s underground tunnels. Music by DJ Shadow. 6pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thur 11/13 ROME OPEN CITY (1945): A harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it, ROME OPEN CITY is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work garnered awards around the globe and left the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake. Directed by Roberto Rossellini. 100 minutes. 6pm, MIT Room 3–133.
Happy Labor Day, and welcome back to the new school year. We’ve finalized the line-up for our Fall 2013 MIT Urban Planning Film Series, listed below. As always, we’ve included some classics—including a 50th anniversary showing of Francesco Rosi’s HANDS OVER THE CITY to start us off—as well as some great new stuff, exploring renewable energy, gentrification, crime and the Mexican drug wars, and the promise and perils of international development. We continue our partnership with PBS/POV American Documentary to bring some special community screenings to the Boston area. And we’ve even included a special pre-Thanksgiving show of 2007’s crowd-pleaser, KING CORN.
(Note: click here to download the complete schedule as a nice pdf flyer. Please feel free to print, copy, distribute—all are welcome!)
- Thurs 10/10: CAPE SPIN! AN AMERICAN POWER STRUGGLE (2011) This tragicomic tale explores the surreal and fascinating battle over America’s largest clean energy project. When energy entrepreneur Jim Gordon first proposed putting 130 wind turbines in fabled Nantucket Sound, he had no idea that a firestorm would erupt, as the country’s first proposed offshore wind farm triggered a schism in this idyllic coastal region, pitting neighbor against neighbor and environmentalist against environmentalist. Revealing the root causes of their furor, the filmmakers enjoyed unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the key players on both sides of the controversy. The tale frames the battle over Nantucket Sound as a microcosm of America’s struggle towards energy sustainability. After 10 years, $70 million and 8,000 pages of analysis the Federal Government approved the wind farm project on April 28, 2010—but the controversy continues…. Directed by Robbie Gemmel and John Kirby. Official selection: Woodstock Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival; Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival. 84 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thurs 10/17: BEAUBOURG (1977) The great Neo-Realist Roberto Rossellini’s beautiful and languid final film documents the opening of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, candidly presenting the public’s response to this major cultural phenomenon. Shot on the Pompidou Centre’s opening day in 1977, Rossellini hid dozens of microphones throughout the building to create a soundtrack composed of the public’s reactions to this cultural phenomenon—or in the filmmakers own words, “A film without comments or music.” As the Italian director here turns his inimitable eye upon “Beaubourg” in a vision of critical skepticism, we are transported back to experience this highly influential cultural center at its nascence. Directed by Roberto Rossellini. 55 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 3–133.
Filming BEAUBOURG (1977)
- Thurs 10/24: GOOD FORTUNE (2010) A provocative exploration of how massive international efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa may be undermining the very communities they aim to benefit. In Kenya’s rural countryside, Jackson’s farm is being flooded by an American investor who hopes to alleviate poverty by creating a multimillion-dollar rice farm. Across the country in Nairobi, Silva’s home and business in Africa’s largest shantytown are being demolished as part of a U.N. slum-upgrading project. The gripping stories of two Kenyans battling to save their homes from large-scale development present a unique opportunity see foreign aid through eyes of the people it is intended to help. Directed by Landon Van Soest and Jeremy Levine; presented in collaboration with the award-winning documentary series POV (www.pbs.org/pov). Winner: Witness Award, Silverdocs Film Festival; official selection: IDFA Festival; Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. 90 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thur 11/7: SHIFT CHANGE: PUTTING DEMOCRACY TO WORK (2013) With the long decline in US manufacturing and today’s economic crisis, millions have been thrown out of work, and many are losing their homes. The usual economic solutions are not working, so some citizens and public officials are ready to think outside of the box, to reinvent our failing economy in order to restore long term community stability and a more egalitarian way of life. SHIFT CHANGE tells the little known stories of employee-owned businesses that respond to this challenge, competing successfully in today’s economy while providing secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces. Directed by Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin. Co-sponsored by New Economy@MIT. 60 minutes. 6pm (note different time), MIT Room 3–133.
- Thurs 11/14: MISSION HILL & THE MIRACLE OF BOSTON (1978) Once a predominantly Irish neighborhood of houses, churches, and small stores, after World War II Boston’s Mission Hill began to change: thousands of units of public housing were built—and allowed to decay there; nearby hospitals expanded, displacing people from their homes; developers and speculators bought and sold property and built twenty-story apartment buildings. A new, poor population and an affluent professional population arrived to compete for parts of the old neighborhood. Through the voices of the people of Mission Hill, the film tells the story of urban renewal, racial conflict, and the struggle of a neighborhood to survive through changing times. Directed by Richard Broadman; special award winner, Boston Society of Film Critics, 1984. 60 minutes. Special guests: Karilyn Crockett, MLK Visiting Scholar, MIT; John Grady, Professor of Sociology, Wheaton College (producer). 7pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thurs 11/21: KING CORN (2007) Special Thanksgiving feature. A feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In the film, two friends move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm. Directed by Aaron Woolf; written and featuring Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, with a special appearance by Michael Pollan. Winner: George Foster Peabody Award; Official selection: SXSW; Big Sky Documentary Film Festival; Chicago International Documentary Film Festival. 88 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 3–133.
- Thurs 12/12: MY BROOKLYN (2012) Billed as “the real story behind the takeover of America’s hippest city,” the film follows director Kelly Anderson’s personal journey, as a Brooklyn “gentrifier” seeking to understand the forces reshaping her neighborhood along lines of race and class. Anderson moves to Brooklyn in 1988, lured by cheap rents and bohemian culture, but by the election of Michael Bloomberg in 2001 a massive speculative real estate boom is rapidly altering the neighborhood. She watches as an explosion of luxury housing and chain store development spurs bitter conflict over who has a right to live in the city and to determine its future. While some people view these development patterns as ultimately revitalizing the city, to others, they are erasing the eclectic urban fabric, economic and racial diversity, creative alternative culture, and unique local economies that drew them to Brooklyn in the first place. No less than the city’s soul is at stake. A film by Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean. 85 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 3–133.
MY BROOKLYN (2012)
As always, all films open to the general public, free, first-come/first-served; most shows to include previews, shorts, and/or additional video ephemera. 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. Times and locations subject to change; please check prior to coming. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Update: we’ve posted a few more films and added details to the Spring 2013 Film Series calendar, including a very special treat: last year’s new urban classic, DETROPIA, on March 13. See below for more.
It’s February, Groundhog Day is behind us, New England in hunkering down for a REALLY BIG STORM, and here at UrbanFilm we’re putting the finishing touches on our MIT Spring 2013 Urban Planning Film Series.
This semester, we’re pleased to be able to feature a couple fiction titles, in addition to our usual lineup of the best new documentaries on urban and related issues. We’ll continue our tradition of welcoming film-makers, urban scholars, and local planners, activists, and organizers to attend and offer commentary on the films, thereby building community as we share these films, and expect to partner with PBS/POV American Documentary on a few special events as well. The complete schedule should be up here within a week or two, but for now we wanted to at least tell you what’s up for the start of the series:
- Thurs 2/21: STREET FIGHT (2005) Chronicles the bare-knuckles race for Mayor of Newark, N.J. between Cory Booker, a 32-year-old Rhodes Scholar/Yale Law School graduate, and Sharpe James, the four-term incumbent and undisputed champion of New Jersey politics. Directed by Marshall Curry. Academy Award Nominee, Best Documentary (2005). (Last semester we tried to screen this one, only to be foiled by a rare blackout that hit the MIT campus back in November; hope for better luck this time.) 83 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 66–110
- Thurs 2/28: NIGHT ON EARTH (1991) For this special fiction feature, we’ll travel around the globe with Jim Jarmusch: five cities, five taxicabs, a mad-cap collection of strangers in the night. For this [celebr|explor]ation of everything that makes cities eternal, unique, and endlessly fascinating, Jim Jarmusch assembled an extraordinary international cast of actors (including Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Beatrice Dalle, and Roberto Benigni) for a quintet of tales of urban displacement and existential angst, spanning time zones, continents, and languages. Jarmusch’s lovingly askew view of humanity from the passenger seat makes for one of his most charming and beloved films. 128 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 3–133
- Thurs 3/7: THE WORLD OF BUCKMINSTER FULLER (1974) Architect, engineer, geometer, cartographer, philosopher, futurist, inventor of the famous geodesic dome and the dymaxion car, and one of the most brilliant thinkers of his time, Fuller was renowned for his comprehensive perspective on the world’s problems. (It’s safe to say that Bucky Fuller was one of the main reasons I got into planning in the first place; his 1981 book, Critical Path gave me the optimism to imagine that we humans could actually plan for a better world…). For more than five decades he developed pioneering solutions reflecting his commitment to the potential of innovative design to “do more with less” and thereby improve human lives. Now more relevant than ever, this film captures Fuller’s ideas and thinking, told in his own words. 80 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 66–110
- Wed 3/13: note change of day DETROPIA (2012) Detroit’s story encapsulates the iconic narrative of America over the last century—the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos.
With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. Detroit’s soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future. “The most moving documentary I have seen in years.”—David Denby, The New Yorker. Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. 86 minutes. 7pm, MIT Room 66–110
In World on a Wire (reviewed previously), Rainer Werner Fassbinder explored the possibility of creating a miniature world through the use of a computer. In Hurdy Gurdy, a wonderful new short film from a German and Estonian collaboration, we get to enjoy the ways that the camera itself can render our real-world in apparent miniature (although I suspect a computer played a part as well…), giving us an entirely new and delightfully playful perspective on everyday scenes of urban life.
The film — all of four minutes long — uses stop-motion photography along with a technique that either is, or perhaps simulates, what is known as “tilt-shift” photography. The images below give a rough sense of the effect, which is to change the depth of focus and the level of detail; when combined with the increased speed and mechanical jerkiness (due to the stop-motion animation), the film transforms footage of a typical sea-side town into a magical micropolis of urban interaction: a true sidewalk ballet which unfolds as tourists arrive, streetcars come and go, crowds surge and flow, and daily life weaves and cycles in an endless state of humming activity. (The title itself refers to the mechanical music box, where one could just wind it up again and have the whole scene-and-song play over again and again.)
Janus/Criterion has just re-released a beautiful print of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1973 two-part film, World on a Wire, and I was fortunate enough to have 210 minutes free on a Saturday afternoon to watch it. It’s great.
Plot-wise, the film covers much of the same ground as The Matrix and Inception – although it was made 30 years earlier – but this aspect is covered pretty well by other reviews. That said, the themes of living in the dream-like reality of a world of simulacra – and the ultimate dream of escape to a higher reality – take on a special richness in Fassbinder’s work, infused with the pathos of counter-cultural 1970s Germans.
Visually, the entire film (originally shot in square 16mm for television, like an instamatic photograph) is beautifully fake, presenting the veneer of the world that was the 1970s: plastic molded offices full of plastic molded furniture and plastic molded people with plastic, blank faces – with the exception of our hero, Fred Stiller, the new Director of the Simulacron Project at the Institute for Cybernetics and Futurology. Stiller’s work, known as Simulacron 1, is the most sophisticated computer simulation ever made, a massive program modeling a world of 10,000 “identity units” for the purpose of making accurate scientific and government projections. It’s a planner’s dream: a simulated world where real life plays out for the purposes of forecasting future conditions and testing varios alternatives (“How much steel production will the economy require in 30 years?”; “Should we build more housing units in Baden-Württemberg or Schleswig-Holstein?”; and so on).