In 1961, Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities sent shockwaves through the architecture and planning worlds, with its exploration of the consequences of modern planners’ and architects’ reconfiguration of cities. Today, the reality of city building hardly takes her theory into adequate consideration. While top-down planning has been widely discredited, Le Corbusier’s influence is still very much alive in the rapidly developing and urbanising world. As countries such as China and India grapple with the challenges of mass urbanisation, they are building mega-cities with post-war American cities as models: car-centred, superhighway-girded, tower-in-the-park urbanism is producing similarly disastrous results around the world today, but the scope and scale mean that any future reckoning will be even more severe. A documentary feature on Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses and their epic battles for the right to the city in the 20th century, and how those struggles inform, define and frame the fights we are having over cities in the era of mass urbanisation and the global megacity.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Matt Tyrnauer attended Wesleyan University, where he apprenticed under the film professor Joseph W. Reed, a pioneer in American film scholarship. He is a partner in Altimeter Films, which he co-founded with Corey Reeser. One of his films was one of the highest-grossing documentaries in 2010, and was short-listed for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. Tyrnauer is also an award-winning journalist, who has written many feature articles for Vanity Fair, where he has been editor-at-large, special correspondent and is now a contributing editor.
His other film in a previous festival edition is Jean Nouvel – Reflections.