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Radiant City, Subdivided, and Other Documentaries about Suburban Sprawl

May 27, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: urban sprawl

I haven’t seen it yet, but a new documentary called Radiant City looks interesting. Here is what it’s about:

Something’s happening on the edge of town.

There’s a desperate housewife in the parking lot, a musical chorus line mowing the lawn - and a loaded gun in the upstairs closet.

Welcome to Radiant City, an entertaining and startling new film on 21st century suburbanites.

Gary Burns, Canada’s king of surreal comedy, joins journalist Jim Brown on an outing to the burbs. Venturing into territory both familiar and foreign, they turn the documentary genre inside out, crafting a vivid account of life in The Late Suburban Age.

Sprawl is eating the planet. Across the continent the landscape is being levelled - blasted clean of distinctive features and overlaid with zombie monoculture. Politicians call it growth. Developers call it business. The Moss family call it home.

While Evan Moss zones out in commuter traffic, Ann boils over in her dream kitchen and the kids play sinister games amidst the fresh foundations of monster houses.

I like that “suburban sprawl,” “urban design,” and other related concepts are finally seeing the light of day through film. Check out these two short clips from Radiant City:

Clip 1: Nick Moss, suburbanite kid (27 sec.):

Clip 2: Howard Kunstler, social critic along the bike path (54 sec.):

This latter clip captures how I feel very often during my rides. Another one of Kunstler’s phrases comes to mind—”immersive ugliness.” :) So, we just have to make things better. And we will.

And there is the movie Subdivided (which has a blog!):

Then there’s The End of Suburbia:

Finally, don’t miss a two-part series on urban sprawl from Michigan called The Sprawl of America; Part One is called “Inner City Blues” and Part Two is called “The Fat of the Land“. Both are freely available as RealMedia files at the above links.