In the echo chamber of American documentaries, Gary Huswit’s films reverberate for all the right reasons. They are open explorations, not narrow screeds, that encourage insiders and philistines alike to robustly and respectfully debate the cultural relevancy of seemingly esoteric subjects, like fonts faces (Helvetica, 2007) and product design (Objectified, 2009).
Huswit's new film, Urbanized, which opened in limited release in October and completes his design trilogy, broadens the investigation to cities. The 85-minute unnarrated film explores the design and function of urban areas in the 21st century through profiles of 14 cities and interviews with leading minds such as Rem Koolhaas, Sir Norman Foster, former mayor of Bogotá Enrique Peñalosa, and Edgar Pieterse from the African Centre for Cities. This is Huswit’s most accessible subject to date. It’s also an ideological minefield. In discussing modern urban development, you can’t ignore the role of money, power, and class or the deeply rooted opinions most people have on how to balance public and private interests.