Drive into any new suburban area in Canada and the cookie-cutter developments seem to spring out of the ground like a summer harvest.
They’re the ones with the perfectly-planned streets, the purpose-built crescents accented by nearby parks and big box stores offering goods in massive amounts, which can obviously only be carted home by car or truck.
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These are the new suburbs, and they’ve drawn the ire of Calgary-based filmmakers Gary Burns and Jim Brown.
The two — tired of watching the unchecked urban sprawl, which they feel has permanently scarred cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, take hold — set out to make Radiant City, a stinging documentary using dramatized commentary from actors, as well as interviews with real urban planners and theorists, to expose what they say are the environmental and social pitfalls of living in the new ‘burbs.
“We’re very opinionated and we think no one should live there the way they’re designed right now,” Burns says. “We didn’t think the suburbs could use some touching up, it was really, they’re not working at all in our opinion.”
“We’ve known about these problems for years and years and yet we still keep cranking them out and in fact they get worse,” Brown adds.
The co-directors and writers lay a great deal of the urban sprawl blame at the feet of developers and cities, who they say want to maximize tax revenues and construction profits with little thought to sound planning practices.
While theorists interviewed in the film promote densification of new suburban areas and recommend fast action to make public transit a viable option for many living in these communities, Burns doubts Radiant City will have much impact.
“We just wanted to raise awareness and get people talking and that’s all you can really hope for.”
- Radiant City is now playing in theatres.