'The City' Documents Formative Planning Advocacy on Film

Streaming on YouTube, the 1939 film "The City" is a powerful cinematic account of advocating for planned communities.

1 minute read

August 31, 2020, 11:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

"The City" (1939) revolutionized the art of documentary filmmaking, says Richard Brody. According to Brody, the film "suggests the mighty purview, the theoretical span, and the personal perspective that a film of this kind could embody—and that is often missing from many recent documentaries in spite of their technical freedoms."

Originally conceptualized by Catherine Bauer, an affordable housing advocate, the film makes the argument for public housing as a fundamental right. It advocates for planned communities and "decentralized small cities, organized around factories and other work sites and sources of employment, each with copious parks and recreational areas, shops, schools, and services, linked to one another by vast arrays of roads (large and numerous enough to obviate traffic but landscaped, as parkways, to be as edifying as the towns themselves)," writes Brody.

Brody goes on to describe the film's five acts and coda as an enthusiastic account of the power of planned communities. He recommends the film, directed and filmed by Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, which is available to stream on YouTube

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