SUBURBAN AMERICA: PROBLEMS & PROMISE Image

Ron Rudaitis’ documentary focuses on the history of U.S. suburbia. Originally carved out of the 19th century landscape separating urban and rural communities, the suburbs began to grow dramatically in the 1920s – only to slow down during the Great Depression and World War II.

The postwar years were the boom period for suburbia, thanks largely to federal government loan programs for returning veterans. However, the uglier aspects of the era – real estate covenants restricted many neighborhoods to white Christian families – presented a harsher side to the American dream.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the clout of these communities began to reshape the political and economic influences that drive the nation. Bill Clinton’s 1992 election victory was the first time a presidential race was shaped by suburban voting blocs, and today’s Congress functions under an out-of-proportion slant towards suburban districts. Currently, half of the U.S. population resides in the suburbs – and the recession’s toll on these areas can be measured by the proliferation of “for sale” signs outside once-exclusive homes.

While a great deal of information in the film has already been covered by other nonfiction films – particularly the section on the rise of the controversial Levittown development in Long Island, N.Y. – Rudaitis’ production provides an interesting insight into 20th century American socio-economic history.

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