Documentary Calls Attention to Renters' Plight

There's a new and The Thousandth Tower Toronto compelling documentary that exposes the life of tenants in the Toronto area. The film, "The Thousandth Tower: Stories From Inside a Toronto Suburban Highrise," provides a powerful look at the neglect of the Canadian city's suburbs and those who live there.

The web-based film profiles six residents in the run-down neighborhood of Rexdale who are living in two of the area's towers.

Part of a multimedia, multiyear project called "Highrise," the socially-conscious effort is being billed as a local-yet-global initiative in which filmmakers travel to "10 towers in 10 suburbs in 10 of the world's unlikely growing cities." Also called "The Towers in the World, the World in the Towers," this international collaborative project will take the filmmakers to Bogota, Miami, Beirut, Frankfurt, Marseilles, Dongtan, Bangalore, Tashkent and Nairobi -- cities that they've discovered are experiencing a similar situation in "vertical sprawl," both upward and outward.

The web-based documentary was created as part of the National Film Board of Canada's Filmmaker-in-Residence project and debuted at City Hall in front of Toronto's mayor and other local politicians, along with urban planners, administrators and members of the general public. The hope of filmmaker Katerina Cizek and her team is to garner enough attention and change the residents' quality of life.

It was a difficult task for the film's producers who exhausted a year choosing their subjects: four women and two men, all of varying ages and backgrounds. The filmmakers armed their subjects with digital cameras and a blog, and had them record their lives over the course of six months. The result is a moving account of six hardworking people who deserve a decent place to live.

The ambitious film is an attempt to push forward the city's Tower Renewal Project. The goal of this new urban plan is to make the towers and their surroundings livable.

The film highlight the outrageous rents the residents pay each month for their sorry state of their housing. Sadder still is that the two towers featured in the documentary are part of 1,000 crumbling residential towers that form a ring around the city, and which had been introduced as emblematic of the area's thriving suburbanism.

While the residents of these towers live within desirable zip codes, it's only those in the surrounding community who reap the benefits.

For more on the "Highrise" series, as well as Cizek's other projects, go to the "Highrise" site.
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