Radiant City
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Radiant City

2006, Society  -   48 Comments
Ratings: 7.48/10 from 21 users.

Radiant CityIn this feature length film Gary Burns, Canada's king of surreal comedy, joins journalist Jim Brown on an outing to the suburbs.

Venturing into territory both familiar and foreign, they turn the documentary genre inside out, crafting a vivid account of life in The Late Suburban Age.

Since the end of World War II, one of kind of urban residential development has dominate how cities in North America have grown, the suburbs. In these artificial neighborhoods, there is a sense of careless sprawl in an car dominated culture that ineffectually tries to create the more organically grown older communities.

Interspersed with the comments of various experts about the nature of suburbia, we follow the lives of various inhabitants of this pervasive urban sprawl and hear their thoughts. However at the end, there is a twist that plays on the falseness of the world in they live.

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3 years ago

Did anyone else HATE the ending?? I was enjoying it so much until the “reveal” at the end (I don’t want to give away too much).

5 years ago

esmuziq & frames

It's the cost of doing heterosexuality and the traditional family bit. Women have got to be crazy to participate, and they end up crazier after being in it for a while. That's why there is alcohol and happy drugs.

9 years ago

Just a way to push the Agenda and living on my own land is truly the only way to be sustainable no need to drive to the store if we grow it and where is the food going to come from ? control over every thing in our life no thanks !!

Taboo Brains
9 years ago

Hmmm. Very interesting documentary. Have to watch this for a class but I like it. Very much.

teresa sumrall
10 years ago

Almost all people can grow a vegetable plant. Plant a potato. Share the harvest with your neighbors. If we all grow a small garden and share with each other, we can grow community as well. I am grateful for the Top Documentary Film community. I learn so much, I have disconnected TV.

11 years ago

Hello from Toronto. Most suburbs are incomplete like in this movie.
Suburbs will only work if the residents work locally and dont commute 1 hour to downtown.

So,, the suburb must have mixed-use development and high density, multi family housings. Jobs must come from suburban office parks but ALSO from high skilled areas like health and education, finance and retail. Jobs create network and communities which creates harmony.

In USA, Canada Australia, home ownership is not only about economics but also social status. IN Europe, there is no stigma with renting in a city center. In North America, city centers have crime or cold winters. So the Suburb will continue in N. America because people there is plenty of cheap land unlike Europe.

We just have to plan 'smarter suburbs' by bulding residences around schools and business plazas, to create more public spaces and community.

11 years ago

Good doc. My husband is North American, I am European (Scandinavian) and we met in London. Soon after starting our family we briefly lived in Florida but although he managed to find a place in a decent neighbourhood (could walk to shops, playground) it was just this nightmare they depict here. I am completely urban, I don't have a driver's licence and never will. I became fascinated about this infrastructure, so I read Suburban Nation and It's a Sprawl World After All (recommend these!). We had to soon move back to Europe. He almost favoured Europe more than I did, he had grown attached to this life style. My parents always insisted living central, home and abroad, and I am the same way. Here kids walk to school from 1st grade, my ten year old often cycles to football practice, walks to the library, my eight year old has so many friends around he can access on his own, I can send them to the shops etc. There is a natural progression in the expansion of their boundaries. They have the right amount of independence at each stage. We live in a small but adequate townhouse with great amenities. We could've afforded a bigger house in the middle of a field somewhere but everything here is within walking distance plus there are trains and buses running everywhere. In the U.S. people want to have their own swimming pool, tennis court, playground, movie theater, pool table/games room etc. but we have the whole world open to us using the communal swimming pools, local pool halls, movie theaters and bowling alleys. It would feel too lonely and quiet to be so isolated.

11 years ago

Having grown up in Calgary, Alberta, the city where this was filmed... It's dead on. Great film, really captures the bleakness of fabricated suburbia. Although I had my suspicions about them being actors since I edit video for a living and could spot the "TV magic" hahaha.

11 years ago

Where shall I start? This is a very funny film. To paraphrase one of the "experts" pushing his PhD thesis, "People are going to have to change, whether they like it or not." This sounds much like my local government's planning department. A pox on all these modern social re-engineers.

12 years ago

So, I watched this last week,and have been thinking,and finally I've realized...this is great!A true satirical documentary that blurs the lines between detached cynicism and comic farce.A truly subtle rendering here,that puts a carnival-like mirror up to the increasingly dreary landscape known as suburbia.

Zoe Biehl
12 years ago

Didn't see the ending coming. Watching this makes me feel quite grateful for growing up poor in a small town where I had to walk everywhere and interact with real people. I plan on living in a tiny home somewhere rural and this definitely furthers my dream.

12 years ago

those are some really miserable people. Eastern europe rocks in compare to this.

12 years ago

When I migrated to America from an Indian city where I literally had about nine friends in my street; if I add up my school, relatives etc friends, it would add up to a 50 easily. (Trust me it has nothing to do with population, its just how it is, ask any Indian person lol).

After moving to American suburbia (my uncles house), I bought the whole idea of living alone, individuality and the like. I really admired the playgrounds at mosques and how they associate it with community activity or community get together. I totally bought the idea that the "system" is very organized in America.

Its been six years now, the only friends I know are my cousins. The only neighbors I know are my cousins. I barely meet them once a week because of our work schedules, etc I have always blamed this on racism or cultural differences or american lifestyle. All this time, it had never occurred to me that this has been a synthetic/experimental and manufactured society since day one. This movie/documentary was an eye opener for me.

12 years ago

I thought something was weird when the car conveniently broke down. Also, that Mother was a huge bitch, also most too bitchy to be real...

12 years ago

A chastization on monoculturism and a plead for polyculturalism. The cookie-cutter subdivisions encourage cookie-cutter mentality. Yes, people are all different, but it's the encuragement of similar thought in similar environments that seems to give people that certain air of , well, boring.
Aside from that, I dispise neighborhood associations and ridged cosmetic laws that come with these manufactured "communities".

12 years ago

The documentary is interesting for me. I grew up in a small city in Ontario, Canada with a population of 22000. I lived in something similar to a suburban neighbourhood but because it wasn't such an isolated community and didn't have the endless suburban sprawl as shown in the film it didn't really feel quite as surreal.

I remember going to Arizona when I was 8 to visit my grandparents and my first thought on seeing all of the suburban sprawl was 'why do all these houses look the exact same?' Even if the ones back home had similar designs they alternated every now and then or had fairly different paint jobs and windows.

I'm been in Ottawa now for University and I've randomly ridden on the buses without really any destination in mind a few times just to get a feel for the city. I can tell which areas are older and to some degree how the city developed. One of the more interesting things I've noticed is some of the main streets, mostly the ones going north-south have a lot of old urban style businesses and shopping such as Bank St or Preston. At the same time there are a lot of off shoot neighbourhoods on side streets where the places are easily accessible. This isn't downtown Ottawa either, it is pretty much the middle area of the city. it is only once you get past that section that you start seeing the suburban development sprawl and no local stores.

12 years ago

I'm so happy to live in a traditional Europian city, 5 minutes by bike from the city's center! I bike my way to work in three minutes, walk to the grocery store, bike or walk to visit friends, to have dinner at a nice restaurant or to go shopping, seeing a movie or a theater play. All is integrated within a compact and vibrant area.
I live in a 'shopping street'. Every morning when I hit my bike the owner of the veggie store beneath my house says goodmorning. On saturdays I usually stop by the furniture design store across the street to exchance news, and chat a little bit with the owners.
We have a car but we only use it to get out of town or just once in a while to get lot's of groceries. Our home is smaller than a suburban single family home but I'm happy with it, it's my nest.

I really feel part of a community and it makes me feel good!!

12 years ago

Such a good film! The twist at the end makes a lot of sense... I thought they were all a bit too smart...

12 years ago

good message though...

12 years ago

humm... was super good until I found out it was a film and not a doco... slightly misleading... if it was brought to my attention at the beginning, i would have enjoyed it more...

Gary V
12 years ago

An interesting doc with a good twist at the end, especially because I live in the UK. Although I did live in Florida for nearly 2 years just over 20 years ago & have witnessed this type of housing & we too are now moving towards this type of social structuring. It's good to see the way we are heading, I notice a lot of the subjects brought up in this doc happening now over here. There will always be the need for more housing & I don't know which is the right way to go forward with this, but maybe we can learn something from docs like this & make the necessary adjustments to improve on it.

12 years ago

This is totally worth watching and it confirmed everything I thought about how suburbanization has changed and alienated humans ...from each other.. and it does it better in some ways than other documentaries..

If you watch it, the very unexpected twist at the end will help you understand the way suburban lives are seemingly conformist and interchangeable.. it is very challenging to our concept of individualism.

Also, if there is one criticism, i will say that the man in the light brown suit and tie doing some intermittent monologue does himself a disservice because his sarcasm and embellishment detracts from the very important points he is trying to make, which need to be made and could have been made better.

12 years ago

reminds me of upscale slums...maybe one day it will be

12 years ago

don't forget that this is a mockumentary... the family portrayed here are actors. the social commentators and real though

12 years ago

hmmmm, weirdly enough, all of the actors seem very normal, happy,and balanced in real life - which kind of defeats the message that suburbs are unhappy places ... I think the central point (i.e. urban planning and energy) is pretty valid though, and I enjoyed watching this, although am not as excited by 'the twist' as some would be - there comes a point when 'cleverness' just ceases to be clever - and I think that we've already reached that point ...

This film further extends my belief that North American society is in need of some fundamental and profound change if it is to become in any way sustainable ...

12 years ago

i don't like suburbs either. but this is UN Agenda 21 propaganda. it is not about 'sustainable development'. it is all about land grabs and forcing people off the land, including farms and other rural areas and into densely populated 'human habitats' where the rest of the land is off limits to humans. except for the rulers, of course. the goal is to abolish private property and personal vehicles. both of which are considered to be 'unsustainable'. easier population control. just as the family is now considered to be unsustainable. obama stated that we must accept global governance and global currency. this is why the UN was founded. to implement global government and population reduction. they do not care about humans, animals, or the environment. please check it out. agenda 21 is happening in your county right now. through ICLEI. check with your mayor or board of supervisors. and here are some links for more info. the UN charter is superseding the US constitution. that is the plan. representative government is considered to be a barrier to the implementation of Agenda 21. we must stop it before it is too late. thanks.

12 years ago

L'office Nationale du film/the National Film Noard located in Montreal is a super duper great movie library. Their site offers tons of great free short films and others.
At their location on St-Denis st. in Montreal, you can go watch a movie in a "car kind of seat" for two people, and a robot puts your movie in.

12 years ago

You know what makes a beautiful neighborhood? Big, beautiful trees. Nice editing, especially the suspense where you think the brother and his friends are going to accidentally shoot the sister at 72:25 as she walks into the backyard. And then the twist, I was like, what the heck???? Now that was a trip!
I wish they wrapped up with a final comment from that author of The Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler; he was quite a character.
Overall, this movie went off on too many trivial tangents and I feel I wasted my time watching it because it's a fake documentary. On the other hand, it reminds me that just because something claims to be a documentary, doesn't make it true, legitimate, or worthy. At least these filmmakers let you in on the illusion.

12 years ago

what percentage of generation Y moms that are variants of that wacko lady? I say quite a lot...

12 years ago

that woman is crazy lol

12 years ago

That was different.

12 years ago

First impression, they definately picked the perfect neurotic moron mom for this doc. As much as I hate big pharma and the psychiatric perscription mill, this softens my opinion a little.