If You Build It: movie review

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How many TED Talks actually deliver on their promise of an innovation-enlightened future? Urban idealists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller put their theories of populist design into practice when they move to Bertie County, North Carolina, to teach a high-school architecture workshop. Working pro bono (after the curmudgeonly school board cuts their salaries mid-semester), the pair mentors ten juniors in the design process: brainstorming, modeling and constructing ambitious projects that culminate in a year-ending community building.

Pilloton and Miller undoubtedly stimulate young minds, but can they do the same with the local economy? That’s trickier, and there are real stakes here. Without foresight, well-intended projects don’t just waste time and money but harm the city, creating more blighted, empty edifices. To wit, we see a charity house that Miller built in Detroit a few years prior that sits gutted. It’s one of several important lessons in the brief film, and credit goes to Creadon for venturing beyond the classroom to look at how the teachers and students manage small victories despite limited resources.

Release details

Rated: N/R
Duration: 85 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Patrick Creadon
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