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Sprawling from Grace (2008)

 |  Documentary  |  6 June 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 55 users  
Reviews: 4 user | 1 critic

This feature length documentary explores the ravages of American suburban sprawl, what America has lost as a result, and the perils we face if we don't change the way in which we build our ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Thomas S. Ahlbrandt ...
Justin Barr ...
Dena Belzer ...
Himself (archive footage)
Peter Calthorpe ...
David Dixon ...
Mark Falcone ...
Jan Gehl ...
M. King Hubbert ...
Himself (archive footage)
Martin Johnson ...
Rudy Kadlub ...
Jan Kreider ...


This feature length documentary explores the ravages of American suburban sprawl, what America has lost as a result, and the perils we face if we don't change the way in which we build our cities. Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security by cheap energy that has allowed us to spread endlessly into our landscape. We are trapped behind the wheels of our automobiles. With the demand for oil out pacing the Earth's ability to supply it, this suburban living arrangement will fail. America's love affair with the automobile is unsustainable and, like Nero, we are fiddling away, confident that tomorrow will be as promising as today. The wake up call is coming. Written by David M. Edwards

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


...we've become the oil tribe!



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Release Date:

6 June 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sprawling from Grace: Driven to Madness  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$250,000 (estimated)

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Dolby 5.1)


(High Definition)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1 / (anamorphic)
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User Reviews

An informative look at the state of Americanm motorist infrastructure
24 October 2013 | by (Chicago) – See all my reviews

David Edwards film, Sprawling from Grace Driven to Madness, is a look at the social, economic reliability issues generated by Americas fundamental reliance on the automobile in a post-World War II society that focuses on the marginalization of humans in the face of automotive culture. The film follows the current trend of American automobile dependency and how it impacts both American social conditions as well as global economic outlook into the foreseeable future. The film breaking down into three main sections which cover the current state of the American automobile culture and its impacts on the modern city, followed by issues raised by the impact of our dependency on fossil fuel and finally reviews the outlook on alternative means of urban development which could radically improve some of the issues included in the first two portions.

Synopsis: Edwards begins the documentary by overviewing the initial causes of American automobile culture, focusing on the height of popular American values following the economic boom after World War II. These values are relayed mostly through short examples of American automotive advertisements around this time demonstrating the importance of choice in the newly exploding American culture. Many of the commentaries of these clips present the argument that what began as a choice and a luxury have since become a necessity which most Americans rely upon to fulfil basic daily needs. This portion mostly acts as a staging for the contrast delivered by the next portion which brings the viewer back up to present time in order to witness a state of despair among motorists. Focusing on the issues of crowding and congestion within the interstate system, Edwards explains how the speed at which this network developed was ill-equipped to handle the demand which soon followed. As the popularity of the automobile skyrocketed following the growth of both American families and overall population, the only reliable option to handle this growth was expansion of lanes within the interstate. Critics in this portion of the film agree that automobile growth overcame the expansion of these roads, leading to solutions to these issues become short term fixes to very long term problems. Edwards then moves the focus to the cause of these infrastructural flaws which he points toward the suburbs. Automobile reliability and large populations generated in these suburbs caused a steep need for expanded infrastructure and the current model employed in and around urban zones. This solution however was short term and cased the crowded state of the highways. Edwards finishes this portion by moving to the dangers of this situation using the example of the I35 collapse in Minneapolis. The film relies on this example and an overall evaluation by and unnamed American engineering group which gave the infrastructure a low grade in terms of upkeep to convey the dangers of the decay in the system and further enforce the idea that it is aging past its ability to be maintained.

At this point the movie shifts to the issue of reliance of fossil fuel. Edwards argues that American consumption of oil has reached a point of critical consumption and that it is only going to continue on its downward path. This portion of the movie is the longest and includes a great deal of his guests in the documentary commenting on the various facts and myths of the energy crisis. A large emphasis in this portion is placed on the availability of oil around the world and the possibility of global depletion. A small amount of effort is placed in examining the potential involved in alternative fuel types, but most of his critics reinforce the idea that finding new forms of fuel is only delaying an inevitable outcome of disaster. Contrasts to the oil crisis in the 1970's are included and expanded on. Another topic covered in this portion is the more recent onset of this type of culture in the newly emerging eastern world such as India and China. Comparing America's current infrastructure with the greatly expanded infrastructure planned for those countries, Edwards paints a particularly grim picture of how the global economy will react to this stress. One such bit of grim outlook included here is the discussion of the conflict in the Middle East, which Edwards seems to blame exclusively on oil conflicts without directly stating it.

The final portion of the film, which regards urban planning and city design, picks up a noticeably lighter tone and ends the film on a positive note. The film seeks to answer some of the questions raised up to this point by allowing for examples of successful urban communities which derive inspiration from pre-World War II planning. This idea is carried throughout the section, emphasizing the amount of cultural knowledge of human settlement evolution which Edwards considers lost after the period. Many of the scenes in this portion display scenes of small town living and examples of diverse and more compact societies with a greater reliance on public transit such as railways and street cars. Another huge emphasis in this section is the argument that public transit is a cornerstone of success in these areas.

Overall the film raises a number of interesting points and expands on many of the problems facing the American city and condition of the modern motorway and commuter lifestyle. Many of the problems which are diagnosed in the early portion of the film are later touched upon in the later portions and various examples of means of improving these problems are given. The film also presents an interesting cause and effect relationship between historical behavior in the US and its direct impact on the conditions which affect drivers and commuters alike. The commentary early in does a good job of adequately framing the lifestyle of the American commuter and touches on why the battle to fix these situations is uphill.

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