According to the World Health Organization, as of 2010, over half the world’s population lived in cities.
By 2050, that percentage is expected to increase to 70 percent.
That fact is forcing the world’s cities to change at a rapid pace, and a University of Miami professor is capturing the problems generated by that change on film.
A New Kind Of Film Screening
Sanjeev Chatterjee teaches in the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media at the University of Miami's School of Communication. Chatterjee originally thought about his film called "On Cities" as a traditional documentary that would be shown in the traditional way.
Chatterjee wanted his film to spark conversations about the problems major cities face. However, he realized that if he didn't give people a venue to talk about these issues in the film, then those conversations may never happen. So, Chatterjee broke his film up into segments and broadcast them over the web to people around the world.
"In between the segments of the film you have an opportunity to interact with experts, forward thinkers, citizens using technology,” explained Chatterjee. “So, we are trying to redefine what a screening might look like if it was more purposeful."
At Monday's event at University of Miami, viewers watched from as far away as Botswana and experts weighed in from places like Sao Paulo. Participants discussed problems highlighted in the film including overcrowding, food insecurity and, of particular importance to South Florida, climate change.
A Tale Of Two Issues: Climate Change And Land Shortage
UM School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk was among the speakers. She said South Florida is in a unique situation because it is sandwiched between the ocean and the Everglades.
"We have a geography that only allows us about 20 miles of width,” Plater-Zyberk said. “With the Atlantic on one side, the Everglades on the other, the Keys to the South and Broward, which is already built up, to the North. In fact, this is true of all of South Florida as a region."
That geography makes it difficult to manage the region’s layout. It may also become an even bigger issue as sea levels rise. Challenges like rising sea levels need to be discussed by the public, according to Plater-Zyberk, because the way cities deal with problems has changed.
"A hundred years ago, decisions about cities were taken by governments, or kings or in some way a kind of focused authority,” explained Plater-Zyberk. “That doesn't exist so much today, it's actually difficult to make focused individual decisions about places unless you're in Saudi Arabia or China."
Plater-Zyberk said because residents now have a far greater say in how their cities are run they need to be educated about the urban areas they live in. That’s exactly what Dr. Sanjeev Chatterjee’s wants to do with his “On Cities” project.
“It’s true that our cities are changing fast and I don’t think that as citizens we are engaging with the change that is taking place where we live and where more and more of us will continue to live,” Chatterjee said. “We have no control over the changes because we don’t think about what they are and what they will mean for us.”
"On Cities" is an ongoing project from the Knight Center for International Media.