Two weeks ago, Pakhuis de Zwijger held the Urban Stories Festival, a four-day event on urban journalism, storytelling, the future of cities and technology. The festival offered workshops, talk shows, lectures and documentary screenings. On monday, the first documentaries were shown, Torre David (2015) and Africa Shafted (2011). These two documentaries focused on the life in vertical slums in Caracas and Johannesburg. Feeling inspired? Add them to your watchlist!
The evening started off with an inspiring introduction from Alfredo Brillembourg, Fouding partner of Urban-Think Tank and producer of Torre David, the first screening of the evening. He told the inspiring story of his work and goals as an urban architect in which he tries to discover real Latin America. The main question he asks himself is what happens to cities in Latin America and what changing processes are taking place. The biggest symbol of change in Alfedo’s view is the tower of David in Caracas. Neglected for over a decade, in 2007 this building became the improvised home for a community of over 800 families living in an extra-legal and tenuous occupation that many called a vertical slum, until the government eviction in 2014. Alfredo lived in the building for a year to research the organisation of the community of the residents. The real problem he encountered was that the legal constitutions are not in line with the real people. In Caracas, and other cities in Latin America, there’s no legal construct for the urban poor, which resolves in a widening gap between the rich and the poor. This way the society is reflected in the architecture and the question of who owns the city comes to mind.
The second documentary of the evening, Africa Shafted, is about The Ponte, the highest building in Johannesburg. Over thirty African nationalities live there together under one roof, all searching for a better life. Almost the entire documentary was filmed from within the elevator in which you get a really close feeling with the residents. The conversations are short, but very profound. Harmoniously, humorously and lyrically, you get taken behind the windows of a concrete tower, revealing the humanity behind this often misunderstood and reviled community.