The number of streetlamps lighting a neighborhood; the placement of a bike lane; the creation -- or razing -- of a park: Each element of the physical environment can be traced to a decision made somewhere, by someone. In a trilogy of documentaries over the past six years, Gary Hustwit turns the lens on the design industry, translating insider wonkiness into delightfully digestible media by examining the people who dream up and produce the settings for everyday life. He did it first with typography (Helvetica, 2007), and then with industrial design (Objectified, 2009). His final installment, Urbanized, takes on city design -- an ambitious topic with global implications in a rapidly urbanizing world. In line with its predecessors, the film stylishly intertwines stories of human interest with a basic 101 in urban planning at a pace that's accessible, enjoyable, and provocative.
Hustwit is an independent media trailblazer. Through the late '80s and '90s he employed his largely self-taught skills in the music and publishing industries, focusing on artists and writers who flew under the mainstream radar. In 2001 he founded indie DVD label Plexifilm, which produces and distributes films and digital media -- mainly music-related -- from offices in New York and London. He made his directorial debut with Helvetica, which won knowledgeable and novice fans alike with witty candid interviews, compelling imagery, and a soundtrack worthy of standalone purchase. Urbanized follows suit, communicating so effectively that urbanism luminaries have described the film as a much-needed tool for taking their message to the masses.