Movie review

'Open City' documentary visually, mentally inspiring

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"Open City of Amereida" is on one level a documentary about a site of architectural experimentation in Ritoque, Chile. But the Open City and the film are much more than that.

Filmmaker Andres Tapia-Urzua probed what distinguishes it from other boundary-pushing architectural projects and found a blend of philosophy, art, design, respect for nature, ritual performance, a rejection of market values and even an attempt to shed a South American self-image imposed by colonial exploitation.

'Open City of Amereida'


In addition, it grew out of the Catholic University of Valparaiso's department of architecture from which the ongoing project -- and lifestyle for its year-round inhabitants -- inherits a spiritual legacy. Underlying all of this is an adherence to poetic values (with resident poet) both sensually rich and abstruse.

It's a mouthful in 51-minutes but each part is integral to the structures, physical and communal, that Open City has developed since its inception in 1970.

The film screens at 9 tonight at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland, as part of Carnegie Mellon University's International Film Festival. Mr. Tapia-Urzua will conduct a post-screening Q&A, and a reception with Chilean wine will follow.

Born in the United States, he grew up in Chile and is now department chair of digital filmmaking and video production, visual effects and motion graphics and audio production at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

The dialogue is in Spanish and my only complaint is for when I had to concentrate on subtitles over visuals. I particularly enjoyed wordless pans of the sculpture and buildings that sprout across the beautiful oceanside location like alien creatures of a unique ecosystem.

Intellectual, cultish, utopian, pragmatic, ordered and free- wheeling, this experimental community (there is no private ownership) has survived contradictions so successfully that it may yet make the social contribution it strives for and become a model for harmonious global development.

Noting that "500 years is nothing to a continent," one of the residents views the site's four decades as comparable to a second.

"The road is long. We are just beginning."

Admission: $8, $5 for seniors and students. See

Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas: or 412-263-1925.

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