Out my Window is NFB online documentary that is really great! It provides a 360 degree view of a person’s apartment in an urban centre from around the world. It’s really neat to see how so many people live and how similar and different a lot of things are.
Cizek says in her Director’s Statement: “To be human in this century is — more than ever before — to be urban.” There is a strong social justice message in the piece, in particular, highlighting how the peripheries where many highrises are built are too often ignored by downtown politics. Out My Window, and the larger multi-year Highrise project by the NFB that it is part of, might be one way to bridge realities between suburban and urban and raise awareness, but Cizek also insists that the periphery needs to be physically brought back into the fabric of the city. “In some places it may mean proper access to public transit (Toronto), in other places it might mean other forms of infrastructure like water, roads, electricity (Istanbul). We also need to link these realities culturally, in both directions (Amsterdam [as depicted in Out My Window] is a great example of doing this right).”
In terms of doing it right, the highrises have lessons to teach planners and politicians, if they are listening, in terms of local needs. The informal and illegal economies of the highrises are often harmless, quotidian services like barbers, and fresh vegetable delivery. Cizek says that these local entrepreneurs “…are technically illegal due to zoning and permits, but are vital to the communities: halal meat distributor on the third floor, daycare on the seventh, etc.” In Toronto, the Tower Renewal project aims to address and foster some of this entrepreneurial spirit.