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Grand Paris: The President and the Architect
Directed by Bregtje van der Haak
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Paris was the first truly modern large city. But it has remained largely unchanged since the 1860s.

Now, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has a vision to turn Paris into a model super-metropolis for the 21st century that will break down the distinction between downtown and suburb and drive France's economic growth. He calls it "Grand Paris" and he is determined that it will be the crown jewel of his legacy.

To realize his vision, Sarkozy's government engages 10 star architects, including France's Djamel Klouche and Roland Castro, Mike Davies from the UK, and Winy Maas, from Holland. Their mission: to spend a year rethinking Paris.

GRAND PARIS offers a compelling chronicle of the process, as the architects try to distill months of research and discussion into workable plans. It takes us inside some of the world's top architectural firms, as they compete for an opportunity to reshape one of the world's greatest cities. The film focuses particularly on Winy Maas, whose designs include the Netherlands' pavilion at the 2000 World's Fair, and master plans for an eco-city in Spain and for the Dutch town of Almere.

Maas begins with aerial and walking tours of the city, and with interviews with people living in the region. The result is a catalog of the seemingly intractable problems that have plagued Paris for over a century. They include the stark separation between the posh neighborhoods of the city proper and the sprawling suburbs that ring the downtown, a lack of effective public transit, and an extreme housing shortage.

In addition to the demands of the Grand Paris project, Maas and the other architects in the film waver between being impressed with Sarkozy's vision, and worrying that they are simply being used for political purposes. Will Paris be a bold model for future urban development? Or will the problems of the last 150 years drag on for decades to come?

GRAND PARIS can be viewed in conjunction with PARIS, RING ROAD, an exploration of the changes wrought by the Boulevard Peripherique circling the city; and PARIS, 19TH CENTURY, on the dramatic overhaul of the city led by Baron Haussmann in the 1860s. Together, a trilogy of films on the dynamic evolution of an iconic global city.

"An interesting film for students of architecture and those interested in contemporary France."—Anthropology Review Database, December 2011

★★★ "An inspiring reminder that architects - and even some politicians - remain willing to think big... Recommended."—Video Librarian

50 minutes / Color
English subtitles
Release: 2010
Copyright: 2009

For individual consumers (home video)

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This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Architecture, Design, France, Paris, Planning, Sociology, Urban Planning & Design, Urban Studies

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