This program digs into the archive to offer past examples of the question of what makes a city. Each film is a time capsule presenting previous attempts to reckon with the social relations that give shape to cities across North America—and, in the case of the Jane Jacobs film, a celebration of her enormous contribution to participatory urban planning. The films include and show aspects of Toronto, New York City, and Los Angeles.
Screening in this program:
City Limits, Canada, 1971, dir. Laurence Hyde (28 mins., documentary, 16mm)
City Limits features acclaimed author and activist Jane Jacobs’ forthright, critical analysis of the problems and virtues of North American cities. Jacobs orients her fascinating observations around Toronto, where she moved after leaving New York City, because Toronto “is a city that still has options … it hasn’t made so many mistakes that it’s bound to go downhill.” Jacobs’ remarks, made in 1971, are prescient yet earnest and will interest all urban stakeholders. (National Film Board of Canada)
Organism, US, 1975, dir. Hilary Harris (19 mins., documentary, 16mm)
A time-lapse photographed portrait of New York City, shot over 15 years (1959-74) by Hilary Harris, Organism pre-dates the 1980s films of Godfrey Reggio and pioneered time-lapse techniques that would later become a staple of the genre. In this film, Harris trained his camera on Gotham’s inhabitants, presenting a macrocosmic view of city life as both relentlessly chaotic and systematically harmonious. (Alain LeTourneau)
Bunker Hill, US, 1956, dir. Kent Mackenzie (17 mins., documentary, 16mm)
Made while Mackenzie was a student at USC, and a few years prior to his master work The Exiles (1961), Bunker Hill chronicles the impending displacement of low-income and elderly residents of the titular Los Angeles neighborhood adjacent to downtown, at the behest of urban development authorities—an early example of what was termed “slum clearance.” (Alain LeTourneau)
The Northwest Film Center and Alain LeTourneau would like to thank Jane Gutteridge and The National Film Board of Canada, as well as Dino Everett and the University of Southern California Film Archive for generously supporting the screening of these films.