Jan 16, 2018

Welcome to Baconfest 2018

It’s the New Year, and as the cold January weather sets in, our thoughts turn to the annual Baconfest urban film festival. This year we decided on a theme.  Not the kind Ralphie’s fifth-grade teacher asks for in the movie, A Christmas Story, but a theme that we hope will encourage our film-goers to think about what 21st-century Calgary could look and feel like.


Each year, Baconfest delves deeper into city building, recovery, growth, and future urban scenarios. Selecting films is a lengthy process, and we are discovering the ultimate urban movie does not exist. This year, we will show several short films to provide a greater cross-section of ideas that relate to our theme which focuses on the culture, environment, and form of the city.


Calgary is not Toronto. It is not Vancouver. Are we trying to replicate places we cannot or should not aspire to be? Are the challenges facing those cities emblematic of the fact that few metro areas in this country compete on the world stage, so growth and innovation are focused in two or three places? Several of our films highlight activities that can help separate our city from the rest, while other films alert us to challenges -- current and future -- that we need to address.


Baconfest 2018, opening January 17th, will look at creative urban experiences around the world and the best presentation on world population from a very different perspective. We will close the evening by moving from a world perspective to a humorous look at a very local reality: jaywalking. While the subjects may seem disconnected, they demonstrate how cities are both incoherent and, at the same time, a web of interconnected experiences that no planner or government can create, regulate, or compel.

We are very excited about our theme, What Does 21st Century Calgary Look Like, and about the films we have selected. We hope to create a wave of thought and questions that will challenge your views of our city and your role in shaping our future. 

Apr 25, 2017

One Big Home: A Baconbits Screening

Last weekend, our Baconfest Urban Film Festival made the big time.  

The New York Times posted an article about the Jane Jacobs film we were fortunate enough to screen as part of Baconfest 2017. It was one of the film’s first public showings.  In the article, filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer mentioned the limited showing of the film and referred to Baconfest. If you attended last February, you might remember he tweeted congratulations on our event. So we hit one of the world’s largest media outlets, which is very satisfying to all of us involved in producing Baconfest. 

In celebration, we are hosting another film, One Big Home, that has had limited release, on Wednesday, May 3 at our usual Dutton Theatre location. Please join us at our pop-up Baconbits,  a one-night-only unveiling of the film. 

I find One Big Home a really thought-provoking concept about the increasing size of houses and the dilemma it presents for residents and builders.  It is worth noting the facts about house size and how it has changed over the years, both in the number of bedrooms and square footage. South of the border in my last job, the numbers were staggering. In the 1960s, the average house size was 1,200 square feet. That increased to 1,710 square feet in the 1970s, and in the 2000s, all the way up to 2,330 square feet. For the first time in 100 years, the size started to drop after the 2008 recession, but as the economy picked up, the size started to increase again by 2011. Yet, those numbers are way below what you will see in our upcoming film.

In Canada, house sizes also increased steadily over the course of the twentieth century, but there are signs that this trend has reversed in more recent years. The average size of a Canadian house in 1975 was 1,050 square feet. In 2012, the Canadian Home Builders Association reported that new home sizes had decreased from a peak of 2,300 square feet (during the mid-2000s) to approximately 1,900 square feet on average. In Calgary currently, about 16,450 hectares of land consists of parcels a single family home, representing nearly 24 percent  of the total parcel area of the city.

Increasing house size impacts affordability. As the houses got bigger, so did costs, increasing 28 percent for single family houses, 43 percent for townhouses and 83 percent for condos (just before the 2008 recession in the U.S.). And the direct result is households paying way more of their income for housing. Where I was working in the D.C. suburbs, we saw a 22 percent increase in the number of households paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

While none of these statistics will be of concern for the folks building the homes in the film in tony Martha’s Vineyard, the purpose of the film applies across the landscape. We hope to see our Baconfest regulars next week and welcome all newcomers. See you soon.

Feb 24, 2017

Baconfest: Till We Meet Again

Baconfest: Till We Meet Again

Sorry to see this year's Baconfest come to an end. It did, however, end with a bang. Our rare pre-release screening of Citizen Jane, a film about the struggle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs,  was a real treat, and we even got a tweet from the producers wishing all a great evening watching their film. 

Calgarians got to view Citizen Jane even before New Yorkers, thanks to our sponsors, the Calgary Underground Film Festival which secured the screening, and the Calgary Foundation, which provided the resources so we could show it free.

I think the straight talk from Robert Moses, showing such hard-nosed attitudes to the people being displaced and dismissing their concerns, was surprising to many. It was certainly indicative of the time but  thankfully it's not how we approach public works today. And of course we all laughed when the film noted Jane’s move to Toronto, where she had to do it all again with the Spadina Expressway proposal.

As usual our audience was knowledgeable and engaged in some great discussions. Seems having DIRTT (our food sponsor for the fourth straight year) providing popcorn this round instead of the usual Bacon had the same impact. Since the first Baconfest we've switched up the programming, moving from an initial eight screenings to a comfortable four evenings of urban entertainment. The Calgary Public Library tells us this is the most popular event at their Dutton Theatre. We are always open to suggestions about how we improve, what films to show, or whether the donuts last week were better than the usual sandwiches. So please let us know your thoughts.

I mentioned that we're now located in the Triangle Gallery in front of City Hall. We have a small open space where we are looking to continue discussions with the community on urban ideas and issues.  We are open to your thoughts and suggestions.  We can accommodate around 45 people for such an event and if the weather is nice, move it outside. So please let us know what you would like to discuss. And if you would like to watch Citizen Jane again, we may be showing it again during the Canadian Planning Conference in June.

I look forward to engaging all our loyal followers at the fifth Baconfest next year and hopefully throughout the rest of this year.

Feb 21, 2017

Baconfest: The last picture show 

So our third evening of film and chat was another great evening.  We are not sure if the sugar In the donuts we served had anything to do with it. Unexpectedly one of the Calgary Foundation grant winners Jean-Claude Munyezamu was there to tell the film goers about the terrific work his non profit, Soccer Without Boundaries, does with kids recently arrived here in Calgary. It was a very uplifting description about what everyday Calgarians are doing to make our community a better place to live.   

A highlight of this year's Baconfest is our final screening where we'll be showing, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

Premiering at the Toronto International Film  Festival last fall,  this new documentary film explores Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses' fight for NYC. The inspiration for today’s beloved Jane’s Walk, Jane is also known for her early 1960's book about cities, and later writings about city economies. These books also help us understand what is happening in our cities today.

Thanks to the Calgary Underground Film Festival and the Calgary Foundation for sponsoring the film and making it possible for a very rare pre-release screening before the film opens in theaters in April.   

And one final reminder - our screening on Wednesday moves to a different venue, the Globe Cinema. While I have not yet seen the film the reviews have been excellent. I look forward to watching it with you and discussing your thoughts afterwards.    

Feb 10, 2017

Baconfest Week 3:

A taste of Baconfest: night three  

Another terrific evening for Baconfest attendees and organizers last Wednesday evening. The film  “Everything Will Be” could have been a little shorter, but the National Film Board did a terrific job filming everyday life and the people of Vancouver’s Chinatown. The opening sequence as merchants opened their shops, street vendors set up displays, was stunning.  The visual images were soon overtaken by the stories of the people and their perceptions of what the neighbourhood was, is and how it was changing. The film really was a story about people.

This Wednesday we have one long feature, “A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitba Brazil” and a couple of shorts. Curitba is on all city builders bucket list, a place where city administrators see a solution, then make it happen.  There are lots of lessons for us to explore and marvel at how this city has made things happen.

The first short film is about better “tactical urbanism” in Austin, where a community movement led by one individual brought light rail back to a troubled commercial corridor and helped bring it back to life. 

The second short film titled “Soul of the City” is from the Calgary Foundation highlighting their grant winners. And if time allows, the short film “Seattle, America’s next top transit city” will give us an overview of what that city is doing to move people and create economic opportunity.

So we look forward to hosting you at the Dutton Theatre in the downtown public library next Wednesday. 

And I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that on the last Baconfest evening, February 22, the show shifts to a different venue, the Globe Cinema for the big finale, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, which we believe is the only public viewing since the premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.