Citizen Jane: Battle for the City
In 1960, Jane Jacobs's book The Death and Life of Great American Cities sent shockwaves through the architecture and planning worlds, with its exploration of modern city planning. Jacobs, a journalist, author and activist, was involved in many fights in mid-century New York, to stop 'master builder' Robert Moses from running roughshod over the city and demolishing historic neighbourhoods in pursuit of his modernist vision.
This film retraces those battles as contemporary urbanization moves to the very front of the global agenda, and examines the city of today through the life and work of one of its greatest champions.
BBC Four - Citizen Jane: Battle for the City
Here's the trailer:
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City - Official trailer - YouTube
Here's a review of the documentary from the Mirror:
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City review - A fascinating look at US post-war activism
One highlight of my son’s summer holiday is a walk down the marina pier in the little French town we always visit.Focusing on post-war American city-planning battles, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (BBC4) certainly didn’t sound like a stroll along the harbour. It turned out to be a fascinating film of many parts. It was a tribute to Jane Jacobs, writer, activist, human. It was a struggle between men and women, rich and poor, big ideas and everyday realities. Whether you found it inspiring or disheartening though is another matter.
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City - A look at US post-war activism | TV & Radio | Showbiz & TV | Express.co.uk
And from the Financial Times:
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City — enthralling
Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary tells the story of one woman’s fight against urban planning
Godzilla vs Mothra, Alien vs Predator, La La Land versus the world. Movies thrive on the clash of titans, and in Matt Tyrnauer’s new documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City we have a peach. In one corner scowls Robert Moses, fabled postwar New York city planner — opposing him Jane Jacobs, the writer and activist whose campaigns helped save Manhattan from becoming a superhighway. To be gripped by Tyrnauer’s film, a fascination for New York history or how cities are made may be useful — but really, you just need a taste for a scrap.
The origin story takes us back to the dawn of the 1930s when the Chrysler and Empire State buildings cut their ribbons as the Depression battered the streets below. Enter Moses, a young bureaucrat with a zeal for improving the lives of the city’s poor. But in later years came unchecked power, and an obsession with the wrecking ball as cure for the “cancer” of slum housing that was often perfectly decent. What the film calls “the godlike vantage” of the planner was a destructively neat fit for a strong-arm personality and the Futurama dreams of the age, fixated on what Moses saw as the jewel of urban life — the car.
To play his nemesis, a casting director might well turn to a figure like Jacobs, with her bicycle and air of beatnik librarian. But their differences went deeper than surface. A woman giving voice to her thoughts in the first days of second-wave feminism, Jacobs found something almost spiritual in the teem of the inner city — and saw that once you lost the store and the street, well, there goes the neighbourhood. And so inevitably came war, and a showdown over Moses’s attempts to force through his Lower Manhattan Expressway in a backroom deal that would have seen SoHo and Greenwich Village flattened and reborn as 10 lanes of gridlock. Tyrnauer lets that image sink in without losing sight of the wider context — James Baldwin appears on screen to remark how often “urban renewal means negro removal.”
As a history of competing powers, the film is enthralling. Jacobs’ love of the public arena translated into prankishly dragging Moses’s plans into the light, while he was undone by a basic contempt for other people’s opinions. Another film might have pondered if a trace of Moses’s vision could be redeemed, but the case it makes for Jacobs is cast iron. She had, it is said, “a willingness to be sceptical”. What could be more heroic?