‘Urbanized’ review


2011; NR; 85 minutes

(available on Netflix streaming)

  • What was it about?: Filmmaker Gary Hustwit says it’s a film about the design of cities. That’s technically true, but it’s about transportation, mostly. Transportation in big cities, specifically. As in, who’s doing innovative stuff with transportation — even if they fail by the time the end credits roll. More generally, I would say “Urbanized” is a film about connections. 
  • Did it suck?: Hells no.
  • Why not?: It was a surprisingly smart film, with a wide variety of interviews. And it was presented largely without bias, except a bias toward innovation (which I’m OK with). Speaking of surprises, the seemingly progressive mayor of Bogota was a treat to watch. Much of his interview was conducted while he was on his bicycle, and he almost gleefully pointed to nicely paved and heavily used bicycle lanes adjacent to muddy, pothole-filled roads that cars were relegated to using. Who knew? Another particularly poignant vignette was from the shanties in Cape Town, South Africa, where officials built lighted and 24-hour staffed safe houses every few hundred yards. For pedestrians traveling to their hovels in the post-sunset or predawn hours, these beacons created a sort of highway through the slums and were available for them to duck into to avoid nefarious doings outside. Anyone interested in urban planning, urban renewal or transportation puzzles in general should watch this film.  
  • This movie made me want to…: Move to Bogota, Colombia. Almost. I think they still have a lot of killing there, though. And we don’t want no killing, Lord.

“Urbanized” is available on Netflix streaming, so much of the population can watch it now at no extra charge. If you don’t have the service, you can rent it in the play-window below for $3.99.

Finally, Hustwit’s movie site has morphed into a very interesting blog. Check it out rightcheer.

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