Bringing the legendary urban theorist's life and work to the big screen, Matt Tyrnauer's Citizen Jane: Battle for the City is an engaging look at the mid-century civic activism that shaped Jacobs' influence as a 20th-century thinker. Focusing primarily on Jacobs' conflicts with Robert Moses in 50s and 60s New York, the film presents an intimate visual study of the clashing principles that formed so many modern North American cities, including Jacobs' own adopted hometown of Toronto. Premiering at the TIFF Lightbox on April 21st, a special Jane's Walk event will accompany the opening.  

Led by former Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall and urban designer Ken Greenberg, the walk will begin at the Jane's Chairs at Victoria Memorial Square Park, exploring the Downtown's 'Two Kings' regeneration areas, which were successfully rezoned under Hall's tenure to help enliven formerly industrial lands. Strongly influenced by Jacobs' work, the Two Kings project did away with strict land-use segregation to open up the city's creative possibilities. 

Citizen Jane poster, image courtesy of Altimeter Films

Following the screening, a Town Hall style discussion will look to the future as well as the past. Moderated by Jane's Walk's Zara Ebrahim, the interdisciplinary discussion will feature a variety of participants, including Amanda Lewis of Charlies' FreeWheels, Hibaq Gelle of the Premier's Council on Youth Opportunities, and a speaker from the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust.  

To learn more about the film, UrbanToronto's September interview with directory Matt Tyrnauer—accompanying the documentary's world premiere at TIFF—offers a closer look at Citizen Jane:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a book almost entirely bereft of photos and graphics. "There's just a note from Jane Jacobs that basically says—and I'm paraphrasing here—'if you want to experience a city, go out onto the street. See it,'" director Matt Tyrnauer tells me. In a sense, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City accomplishes just that. 

The rest of our interview is available here.


Citizen Jane's April 21st premiere will help kick off this year's Jane's Walk global festival, with the annual event returning on May 5-7. Proceeds from the premiere will also be donated by Films We Like to Jane's Walk.