Transitions Film Festival Review: Growing Cities (USA, 2013)

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The Transitions Film Festival prides itself on screening a program of world-changing documentaries. This year is no different, and the festival included documentaries about important subjects; true stories from around the globe to challenge and inspire the viewer. One such documentary is Growing Cities.  The hour-long film covers the topic of urban farming, following film makers Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette as they road trip around America in search of farmers who are harvesting food within cities.

We live in a world where most people want to get what they want by doing as little as possible. This is why the concept of a supermarket is so attractive to the modern consumer. Throughout their film, Susman and Monbouquette meet urban farmers in multiple American cities, primarily Detroit, New Orleans and New York. Farmers all over the country have set up urban farming communities, which are able to produce jobs and feed the local people at the same time. The New York segment of the film introduces the concept of rooftop gardens, which are ideal for cities with thousands of unused rooftops but not much ground-floor garden space.

The film’s message is clear, simple and important, so the technical side of the film is not as crucial as in other films. However, these aspects are covered well. The cinematography is interesting and relatively innovative for a low budget production. Susman and Monbouquette are clearly passionate about the topic of their film, but it would have been nice if we had more of a chance to get to know them. The whole film is drenched in voice-over, and more on-camera appearances by the duo may have been a good idea.

Growing Cities is about more than urban farming. It reminds us of the fact that we will one day live in a world where we will struggle to consume the way we do today unless we do something about it now. The film shows that any person, no matter where they live, is able to contribute to this revolution by planting and growing their own food. To hammer this point home, Susman and Monbouquette create a small garden in the back of their pick-up truck, which they drive around in and teach kids about organic eating. The film ends with a list of easy suggestions of ways in which any person can make a difference, from starting a small vegetable garden to starting a community garden with their neighbours. The film achieves what it sets out to do; it makes these suggestions seem easy and entirely plausible by presenting examples of success stories in the world urban farming. In that sense, Growing Cities lives up to the Transitions Film Festival standard of being a world-changing documentary.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Runtime: 58 Minutes

Growing Cities screened as part of the Transitions Film Festival in Melbourne and Adelaide last month. Read more about the festival and the film here: www.transitionsfilmfestival.com and www.growingcitiesmovie.com

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