In story of Jane Jacobs, filmmaker finds rousing tale of resistance

‘Citizen Jane: Battle for the City’ (CNN)Matt Tyrnauer always knew that a documentary about an urban planning pioneer would be a difficult sell. But two days after the presidential election in November, he was worried the “collective funk” that seemed to be afflicting despondent Manhattanites would prevent people from showing up to his film premiere at DOC NYC.

Tyrnauer soon realized his fears were unfounded. Not only was the screening for “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” a packed event, the film inspired at least some moviegoers to join a battle of their own. “After the screening, people came up to me and said, ‘I’ve been in a dark place all week. This movie actually showed me something I could do to start contemplating having an effect to push back and fight back,” Tyrnauer recalled in a recent interview with CNN. At the center of Tyrnauer’s film is Jane Jacobs, an activist whose community-based approach to city planning put her odds with one of New York City’s most powerful developers in the 1950s and 1960s. Read MoreTyrnauer first became intrigued by Jacobs six years ago when he picked up a copy of Jacobs’ book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” at a bookstore in Manhattan’s East Village.Upon reading it, he was “blown away” by her writing style and theories, Tyrnauer said. Jacobs was the voice of descent at a time when urban planners were demolishing neighborhoods and, in her view, killing the lifeblood of modern cities. This theory was her ammunition in a few fights against Robert Moses, a city developer whose plans for a Lower Manhattan Expressway were at one point derailed by Jacobs and her community of backers following a bitter battle. Tyrnauer realized that Jacobs had, essentially, changed the way people view cities and she had gone largely unrecognized for it.He produced “Citizen Jane” with Robert Hammond, co-founder of First of the High Line, a nonprofit organization that operates the legendary rail line-turned-public park in New York City.

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