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September 18, 2011

Urbanized World Premiere!

Greetings from the Toronto International Film Festival, where Urbanized had its World Premiere this week. TIFF is a great festival, I’ve attended several times but have never had a film screen there. And Toronto is one of my favorite cities. We really couldn’t have had a more ideal premiere: over 1,000 people at the Ryerson Theatre (a very vocal, diverse, and enthusiastic crowd) a lively Q&A afterwards, and only one typo in our on-screen graphics (apologies to all the citizens of Columbia… I mean, Colombia!)

I’ve screened Helvetica and Objectified to live audiences maybe 300 times over the past five years. And occasionally those audiences broke out in laughter if one of our interview subjects had a humorous line. But I have never had an audience spontaneously applauding during the film when someone on screen says something they believe in, which happened about eight times at the premiere! It really blew me away, thanks so much to our TIFF audiences for their passion and excitement for the film. It was really gratifying, and a day I won’t forget. I was glad to have cinematographer Luke Geissb├╝hler, editors Shelby Siegel and Michael Culyba, associate producer Pamela Puchalski, and cast member Noah Chasin on stage with me. I’m so grateful to them and the literally hundreds of people around the world who worked on this film with us. Cheers!

Crowd of 1,000 before the Ryerson Theatre premiere.

Gary Hustwit (with mic) and Urbanized cast/crew take questions from the audience.

Another interesting factor was how city government was a big part of the audience for this film. Of course this makes sense, good city officials always want to know about urban design solutions employed in other cities around the world. So we were honored to have the former Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, and city councillors Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong Tam, Joe Mihevc, and other city officials attending screenings throughout the week.

I hadn’t anticipated was how the issues in the film would resonate with Torontonians and correspond with urban issues the city is facing now. Bike lanes and proposed waterfront development seem to be the biggest local issues, and there’s a lot of contention over the actions of newly-elected Mayor Rob Ford. I put out an open invitation to Mayor Ford to attend any of the Urbanized screenings, but he was a no-show… which was too bad, I think he could use a few new ideas.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s reserved seat goes un-used… (Photo: Sarafina DiFelice)

All in all it was a fantastic week, thanks so much to my lady Jessica Edwards for all her work, Aleysa Young for her party rocking skills, all the volunteers who helped out, and everyone who came to the screenings. And a special thanks to Thom Powers, Cameron Bailey, Piers Handling, Sarafina DiFelice, and all the TIFF staff, I look forward to coming up and showing more film with y’all in years to come.

Here’s a roundup of some of the press reviews and stories from this week at TIFF:

National Post – Interview and story on local Toronto politics
Filmmaker Magazine interview
CBC Radio’s Matt Galloway and I discussed Urbanized on Metro Morning
Screen Daily interview
Globe & Mail interview and article
BlogTO review
Indiewire TIFF overview. Favorite line: “Urbanized is my kind of porn.”



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