Autumn 2007 Documentary series
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 7:00pm
Directed by Jim Brown and Gary Burns
Starring Chantal Perron, Kurt McKinistry, Jane MacFarlane, Bob Legare, Mikeala Jeffrey, Daniel Jeffery, Amanda Guenther, Hong Cheng, and Kyle Grant
Rated PG ·
In Radiant City, the much talked about new documentary by Gary Burns and journalist Jim Brown that had its premiere at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, there’s something more desperate about suburbs than their housewives. Whether you call it sprawl or growth, the suburbs have been the dominant form of community planning in North America for fifty years. Burns and Brown peer into the windows — and lives — of those who call suburbia home.
The Moss family is one such household. The parents commute to the city for work, while their kids shuffle from school, to gymnastics, to playing among the half-built homes of their new community. Their micromanaged lives are mapped out on the kitchen whiteboard. The Mosses seem split on their suburban experience: Mom loves the safety and big house; Dad is busy starring in local theatre productions; son and daughter feel isolated from their neighbours. The siblings share their own thoughts as they take us on an ironic tour of the neighbourhood.
Suburban communities are examined and criticized by experts like University of Toronto’s Mark Kingwell and author James Howard Kunstler. The legacy of the suburbs is traced from the rise of the automobile to the arrival of the “new urbanists,” who look to pre-war models for designing future communities.
Yet Radiant City is more than a critical dissertation on the suburbs. Burns lends the movie his witty, satirical edge, crafting a film that’s informative, insightful and hilarious. This film is his most direct confrontation yet with the suburban lifestyle and aesthetic; his familiarity with the landscape allows him to capture both its seductive allure and disenchanting realities. Like the identical streetscapes of a housing division, Radiant City hides secrets behind its glossy exterior that, once revealed, change not only how we view the ‘burbs, but also the movie we’ve just seen.