We Built This City

November 21, 2013

I’m looking forward to the new movies being released in December, particularly the next installment of “The Hobbit.” One film I doubt will be coming to a theater near you, though, is about urban planning, and I’m giving it a big thumbs-up.  

“SagaCity,” a 16-minute animated short produced by Canadian public-interest group Vivre En Ville, won the Best of Fest award at the inaugural New Urbanism Film Festival in Los Angeles. The Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) was a partner in the festival. The best short films will be screened at CNU’s 22nd Annual Congress in June 2014. You can also watch them on the festival web site.

“SagaCity” is the story of Colvert, a fictional town plagued by pollution, traffic, environmental concerns and quality-of-life issues. A report showing alarmingly high levels of greenhouse gas emissions convinces the mayor of Colvert that sweeping changes need to be made. Wisely, she recognizes that such change can only happen if everyone pitches in.

With the input of government bodies, developers, design professionals, urban planners and neighborhood groups, Colvert gradually becomes a pedestrian-friendly, sustainable town. The concepts should be familiar by now to everyone: higher-density housing; better public transportation; more trees and parks; urban-growth boundaries; car- and bike-sharing services; mixed-use development … the list goes on.

The filmmakers’ witty use of animation presents these ideas in an entertaining way without being heavy handed. Early in the film, a teenage boy is shown puffing on an inhaler while the narrator talks about Colvert’s pollution problem; the word “asthma’ is never uttered. And “SagaCity” doesn’t imply that transformation on this scale is easily or quickly accomplished.  “The biggest change we had to make was changing our way of seeing things,” the narrator concludes. That’s the hardest kind of change to make, but the most rewarding.

Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas


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