Film recommendations for landscape geeks and design tragics. Image: The Autowitch
‘Citizen Jane: Battle for the City’, ‘Architecture of Infinity’ and more. Here are Foreground's film recommendations for landscape geeks and design tragics. Image: The Autowitch

Self-isolation survival pack: What to watch

As rain and cold weather lingers over Australia’s eastern seaboard, here is a guide to what to watch while you’re staying in, picked especially for landscape and design tragics. This is the fourth and final installment of Foreground’s self-isolation sanity preservers.

To start with, we recommend Moriyama-San, directed by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, an hour-long documentary about Yasuo Moriyama, the ‘urban hermit’ who lives inside a house built by Ryue Nishizawa. The Moriyama house represents a unique moment in Japanese architecture, with its story told through the poetic vision that is the trademark of all Bêka and Lemoine films.

If you missed Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, 2017 in Australian cinemas a few years ago, you might want to rent on iTunes. Matt Tyrnauer’s film explores the work of writer and activist Jane Jacobs, whose writings highlight the effects of urban expansion and city planning on a city’s communities. It also retraces her fight against New York’s infamous city planner Robert Moses.

If you feel like transcending the earthly world (who wouldn’t right now?), rent Architecture of Infinity from Vimeo. Filmmaker Christoph Schaub explores the architecture of spirituality and worship, including interviews with Peter Zumthor, Álvaro Siza, James Turrell and Cristina Iglesias. The film explores a series of spaces designed for transcendental experiences.

For a more global approach to sustainable initiatives, the 1000 Bamboo Villages project aims to make the most of a global booming bamboo market that is expected to reach an annual value of $93 billion US by 2025. This short film documents a movement to empower rural communities of Indonesia to become land and restoration economy champions.

Another unconventional film about building materials is the film Il Capo, which did the rounds of world film festivals in 2011. While the full film is not available online, this short excerpt is a powerful and poetic slice of the life of ‘the chief’ (il capo) of a marble quarry. Grab a coffee, put your feet up, and briefly enter a world of mass, weight and geological time.

The 2011 documentary Women In Dirt: Landscapes Architects Shaping Our World is watchable via online archive Culture Unplugged. The film follows seven award-winning landscape architects as they work on various projects and discuss the social and political matters intertwined in their work. The film has dated in the past decade and is Californian-centric but offers great sneak peeks into other people’s gardens. Berkeley Library has helpfully compiled this list of other videographies on landscape architecture & the environment, although getting a hold of copies may prove more difficult.

For those more passionate about theatre, shake off those closed-theatre blues and visit the UK’s National Theatre YouTube page. The National Theatre has launched a new program where every Thursday at 7pm UK time, some of the best British theatre will be made free to stream for a week. Alongside this, there are a range of recorded talks and short documentaries, from Judi Dench in conversation, to the life of Mary Shelley and how she came to write Frankenstein.

Turning to Australian sources, ACMI have digitised their weekly film club screenings. Melbourne Cinémathèque takes place on a Tuesday evening, usually in the fabulous Burley-Griffin designed Capitol Theatre, but is now available online. Although not technically about landscape or design, these films are excellently curated. Previous screenings this month include Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy collaborations, Solaris by Andrei Tarkovsky and films from the Iranian New Wave.

We highly recommend watching Manifesto by Julian Rosefeldt, now on SBS on Demand – the streaming platform of one of Australia’s independent television stations. Originally created as a 13-channel video installation, Manifesto is essentially Cate Blanchett playing a myriad of characters while reciting manifestos of various movements – Futurism, Abstract Expressionism, Marxism, Architecture etc. Australian-German film maker Rosefeldt filmed in some locations around Berlin, including the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Brandenburg University of Technology, Teufelsberg spy tower and a garbage disposal plant. Foreground’s editor-at-large also recommends What We Do in the Shadows, available on SBS on Demand, for comic relief.

For those who want to further explore video works, digital platform Recess presents a number of moving image works by contemporary artists. ABC iview have made available their series The Movement where independent dance artists challenge dominant attitudes towards gender, identity and race, including an episode by Amrita Hepi, winner of TCL’s 2019 Kevin Taylor Legacy grant.

And finally,

If you are a healthcare worker, or you know a healthcare worker, please forward this short film to say thank you. Yo-Yo Ma plays the Sarabande from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3, dedicating it to the work and commitment to all our health workers. This moving recital celebrates all of those around the world, who’s “ability to balance human connection and scientific truth in service of us all gives me hope”.

With thanks for Helen Norrie and Michelle Grosser in shifting through the gigabytes.