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Radiant City

The Family Has Just Gone Nuclear

In Radiant City, the new documentary by Gary Burns and journalist Jim Brown, thereís something more desperate about suburbs than their housewives. Whether you call it sprawl or growth, the suburbs have been the dominant form of community planning in North America for fifty years. Burns and Brown peer into the windows ñ and lives ñ of those who call suburbia home. The Moss family is one such household. The parents commute to the city for work, while their kids shuffle from school, to gymnastics, to playing among the half-built homes of their new community. Their micromanaged lives are mapped out on the kitchen whiteboard. The Mosses seem split on their suburban experience: Mom loves the safety and big house; Dad is busy starring in local theatre productions; son and daughter feel isolated from their neighbours. The siblings share their own thoughts as they take us on an ironic tour of the neighbourhood. Suburban communities are examined and criticized by experts like University of Torontoís Mark Kingwell and author James Howard Kunstler. The legacy of the suburbs is traced from the rise of the automobile to the arrival of the ënew urbanistsí, who look to pre-war models for designing future communities. Yet Radiant City is more than a critical dissertation on the suburbs. Burns lends the movie his witty, satirical edge, crafting a film thatís informative, insightful and hilarious. Radiant City is his most direct confrontation yet with the suburban lifestyle and aesthetic; his familiarity with the landscape allows him to capture both its seductive allure and disenchanting realities. Burns and Brown tease the documentary form in new directions, mirroring the faÁade of the suburbs in their film. Cinematographer Patrick McLaughlin provides a vivid backdrop for Burnsís humour and Brownís journalism, while Joey Santiago of The Pixies gives the film an added urgency with a grinding rock soundtrack. Like the identical streetscapes of a housing division, Radiant City hides secrets behind its glossy exterior that, once revealed, change not only how we view the íburbs, but also the movie weíve just seen. Jesse Wente, Toronto International Film Festival
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Directed by: 
Jim Brown & Gary Burns
Running Time: 
Documentary Feature
Screenplay by: 
JIm Brown & Gary Burns

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