Description from TIFF 2011 catalog by Thom Powers:
Director Gary Hustwit has an impressive track record when it comes to exploring the world of design. His popular essay films Helvetica and Objectified profiled the mak&”173;ers of graphics and household objects, respectively, by combining smart interviews with stylish cinematography. His latest film completes a design trilogy and hits even closer to home by looking at cities. In Urbanized, we meet architects, politicians, city planners, activists and others who bring fresh approaches to urban living. The film presents invigorating new strategies for meeting the challenges faced by popula&”173;tions that are expanding (like Mumbai) and shrinking (like Detroit).
City planning has inspired many great writers — from Jane Jacobs to Rem Koolhaas, who are both covered in Urbanized — but not as many filmmakers. Yet cinema has a great advantage, as Hustwit demonstrates by transporting us around the world to visually experience urban projects. In Santiago, the architect Alejandro Aravena tours new mod&”173;els for low-income housing. In Cape Town, landscape architect Tarna Klitzner explains how better walking paths in the Khayelitsha township helped reduce violence by forty per cent. In New Orleans, the artist Candy Chang solicits local input, placing stickers on abandoned buildings that read “I Wish This Was&”8230;” In Bogot&”225;, mayor Enrique Pe&”241;alosa implements a plan to put public transporta&”173;tion ahead of private automobiles. Describing his mission, he quotes the Colombian con&”173;stitution, which stipulates, “All citizens are equal before the law.” As Pe&”241;alosa pointedly adds, “This is not just poetry.”
Over half of today’s world population lives in cities; demographers expect that number to rise to seventy-five per cent by 2050. Urbanized looks at how governments implement decisions from the top down, but also how movements can rise from the bottom up. In Detroit, residents of a blighted neighbourhood clear vacant lots to plant vegetable gardens. In Stuttgart, protestors fight a plan to clear 200-year-old trees for new buildings. Hustwit’s film inspires us to look more carefully at our cities and become active in shaping their future.