City Dreamers was among the movies of Cairo International Film Festival that took place between the 20th to the 29th of November. The movie highlights the work of four women urban architects of the 20th century: Phyllis Lambert, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, and Denise Scott Brown. Although these women shaped urban spaces, they never received the equivalent recognition to other male peers like Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe.
The Canadian filmmaker, Joseph Hillel, directed City Dreamers. You might think Hillel comes from architectural background. However, this is not true. Hillel is an independent filmmaker who was passionate enough to explore the work of these women architects through his cinematography.
As a matter of fact, this is not his first architectural movie. In 2004, Hillel wrote and co-directed his first documentary was on Mies Van der Rohe, “Regular or Super”. This movie won the Award for Best Canadian Film at the 22nd FIFA and Best Photography Prize at the Roma Art Doc Fest.
The whole idea of City Dreamers started when Hillel met Blanche in Montreal. He then became interested to explore her work more deeply. After that he met with her close friends, Phyllis Lambert. I Hillel then went to Toronto to do more interviews with Blanche. That’s when he decided to film more iconic women urban designers.
Story of different elements
In his movie, Hillel is moving between the stories of the four women in parallel. Interviews and amazing cinematography uncover the story of these women of around 70 years of experience. Besides, Hillel is supporting their narration with architectural drawings and models.
The film is exploring of the nature of cities through these women’s eyes. Moreover, it shows influence that Lambert and Van Ginkel had on Montreal’s urban planning. This also includes their effort in preserving heritage buildings.
“Corneilia and Blacnhe had this open carefree attitude.” Hillel said. “They are really breaking the stereotypical serious idea we know of architects”.
The architects were so generous offering Hillel access to their houses and so many buildings. Hillel expressed how he loved Blanche’s sparkling character. It’s inspiring how Hillel’s greatly focused on the human aspect in his movie. “I wanted to give life to these buildings by telling their backstory”, he said.
“I looked across the studio and said what are all these men doing here?”, these are Scott’s words when she started architecture school in South Africa.
It’s important to mention that these women did wonders in a kind of gender biased field at the time. “City Dreamers” is not only for urban designers. It’s a story of women who were passionate enough about cities and how people lived in them to make a radical change. You can watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/324193176