Open Space Films

It’s almost Melbourne International Film Festival time again and that means it is time for me to check out some architectural/urban design films. This time around MIFF have created a program dedicated loosely to all things architecture and urban design called Open Space,which they describe as:

From the traffic jams of Mumbai to the open tar sands of Canada, the space we live in has a direct connection to who we are and how we see the world. Our Space is a collection of films focusing on the places we inhabit, from the overcrowded megacities to the serenity of nature – both revered and threatened by man.

The films on offer cover a diverse range of films and unlike last year I will actually go and see one or two of them. The films in Our Space are as follows (with descriptions courtesy of the MIFF website):

Bogotá Change

Ridden with crime and drugs, Bogotá was once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Then Antanus Mockus – a man fired from his university job for mooning his students in a fit of rage – was elected mayor, and turned the city into a model for the rest of the world; a rare example of the power of politics to effect change for the better.

Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands

Under 4.3 million hectares of boreal forest in Canada lies a mixture of sand and crude oil known as the Alberta Tar Sands. As the world’s second-largest oil reserve it has become the focus of intensive mining operations. Peter Mettler’s production exposes this remote part of our planet in a dialogueless essay displaying the heights of cinematic craftsmanship.

Cairo Garbage

With 10,000 tonnes of new garbage produced every day, Cairo is drowning in its own waste. Even the ‘garbage people’ who for years have made a living from the discarded goods can’t keep up with the pace of waste production. Enter Italian contractors and trash-eating pigs to help solve the problem.

Mumbai Disconnected

With a population set to grow from 18 million to 28.5 million in the next 10 years – 80% of whom currently catch the train to and from work each day – Mumbai is a city warping under the weight of its own infrastructure. Two citizens and a politician push their own agendas in a city on the verge of logistical catastrophe.

Shanghai Space

In a city that grows by half a million people per year, space is a precious commodity. Shanghai’s rapid expansion is forcing officials to look at subterranean accommodation as a possible answer to its housing woes.

Dreams in Copenhagen

A tribute to the physical surroundings that shape the lives of Copenhagen locals, Max Kestner’s documentary avoids historical reverie to create a ‘here and now’ snapshot of a thoroughly modern city. While lovingly profiling the architecture of the Danish capital, Kestner also brings a fascination with how public space is affected by those who live in it; finding his way into back-streets, he lingers over walls onto which people have scratched the names of their loved ones.

How much does your building weigh, Mr Foster?

One of the world’s most prolific modern architects, Lord Norman Foster has designed renowned buildings and landmarks such as Wembley Staduim, Berlin’s Reichstag building and London’s 30 St Mary Axe (otherwise known as ‘The Gherkin’). Despite having designed works in more than 150 cities throughout more than 50 countries, Foster maintains that the architect is always at the mercy of the client.

Nostalgia for the Light

With this film, set in one of the driest place in the world – Chile’s Atacam desert – filmmaker Patricio Guzmán uses the desertscape and the skies above it for a meditation on space, time, history and politics. Guzmán’s search occurs on parallel planes – the celestial and the terrestrial. While astronomers scour the clear skies for signs of light, life and clues into our origins, a group of determined women, the mothers and wives of political prisoners who have ‘disappeared’ search the desert by hand for any human remains.

Over your cities grass will grow

Directed by Sophie Fiennes (The Perverts Guide to Cinema, MIFF 06) and produced by Kees Kasander (Fish Tank, MIFF 09) this production is a creative journey into the soul of German artist Anselm Kiefer. A giant of contemporary European art, Kiefer came to prominence in the 1980 Venice Biennale. The production is set entirely on a 35-hectare site in a derelict silk factory where Kiefer began a series of elaborate installations, both above and below ground. The film enters into direct contact with the raw materials used by Kiefer in constructing his works – earth, ash, gold, acid, glass, concrete and lead. Shot in CinemaScope, with a score by György Ligeti, the film constructs visual set pieces alongside observational footage.


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