Events: New Urbanism Film Festival

Next week, a new kind of film festival hits Los Angeles. For the first time, the city will play host to the first New Urbanism Film Festival, the brainchild of Josh Paget and Joel Joel Karahadian, two Angelenos with a passion for New Urbanism. Their interest in the subject led them to start a group, Noodles and New Urbanism, a monthly meet-up where developments and ideas around the topic could be discussed. It led to a blog, for members to discuss topics further, and, ultimately, the film festival, where a critical mass of like-minded people could come together on a larger scale. The festival will run four days and feature a range of films on issues relating to new urbanism. Walking tours, workshops and a podcast are all on the schedule.

We aked festival co-director Joel Karahadian a bit about more about the genesis of the project and what they hope to accomplish.

Why?  Why a film festival on the subject of Urban Planning?

The New Urbanism Film Festival was created to move the conversation about urban planning out of the textbook and beyond the council chambers and show it on the big screen.  To open up the dialogue of urban design to include the general public, we must offer a language with which to dialogue.  And movies are the language of Los Angeles.  Showcasing movies about architecture, urban design, bicycling, walkability, and public health, we hope to engage all the players of urban planning–designers, metro riders, bicycle riders, architects, politicians, along with the general public—in a broader dialogue about how we are making our city a better place.

You’re not an urban planner, how did you get interested in urban design?

We were in a book group, and we read James Howard Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere.  When we got to the end of it, I suggested we read the sequel Home from Nowhere.  At that mere suggestion, the book group dismissed me. A few of us then started our own book group dedicated to reading planning books. We read Andres Duany, Eric Jacobsen, Reyner Banham, William Fain, Jeff Mapes.  At which point we were so excited about this issue, it was almost like a religious conversion. We started telling everyone about it. We didn’t knock on doors. But we did get “missional,” in wanting to participate and plan some events that would promote walkability and quality urban design. After a few years, we found the best tool we had was the videos we’d show people. So that got us thinking we should produce a film festival. We’ve both worked on other festivals, now it was time to work on a festival with a subject we are passionate about. 

What guides did you use in selecting short films?

We wanted videos that were informative, ones that presented new ideas, but mainly we looked for videos that were fun. We didn’t want a video tape of a lecture. We wanted something that engages the viewer and gets them asking questions about architecture and design. If folks want more detailed information, it’s available. After each screening we have a Q&A, not with the filmmaker, but with an urban planner. If the audience is left wanting more detailed information, the planner will be right there to reap the harvest. And if the audience is really hooked, they can get pick up a book from the pop-up bookstore in the lobby.

What’s been the most surprising element of the festival?

How right we were. The general public has responded really well. When we tell them that the film festival is about architecture and urban planning, they always become more interested. When we first started planning the festival we sought out the advice and support of architects, planners, and advocacy organizations.  Many of them seemed skeptical and some even questioned if there were enough videos to merit a festival. Now, we have more videos than we can fit into four days. And we’ve got an audience that is primed to learn and share ideas.

What’s the best short film in the festival?

They are all good. I have my favorites, sure. I think the best one is one of the short films in the architecture block. It may not be the most amazing short film you’ll see during the four days, but it did change my opinion on one architect I’ve always struggled to understand. And that’s exactly the kind of experience we want to cultivate for our audience during our festival. So for me that one was the best, but after the fest you can tell me your favorite. 

FORM is pleased to be a media partner for the event. Balcony Press, our publisher, will have a pop-up bookstore at the event in the Acme Theater lobby. Drop by and say hi. For the festival schedule and tickets, click here

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