City of the River Within seeks to raise awareness to the forces of rapid urbanization in an increasingly globalized world. Evolving out of what began as an academic concern in the field of city planning and sustainable development, City of the River Within locates the turmoil of hyper-urbanization in present day Hanoi.
This particular form of unchecked development, most notably in the developing world, usually occurs in the world's megacities (10 million plus) where the infrastructure cannot cope with the large intake of rural migrant populations searching for work. The most vulnerable are left on the periphery with few resources or access to employment. Rather than a push towards betterment and progression, hyper-urbanization has resulted in slum settlements, pollution and a very real difficulty in governments to deal with their growing cities. For the most part these added inhabitants are often ignored; an invisible population with no real support or future.
This film takes stock of Vietnam's unique history and challenges to question whether or not Hanoi will similarly collapse under it's own growth or find a balance. The battle for control over the right to the city's spaces begins with residents speaking up and telling their stories. Hanoians contest the future of their city in light of an overwhelming “state capitalist” system, both feudalistic and haphazard. The film bears witness to narratives of conflict and hope as graffiti artists, communities, and activists labor to see a more vibrant, hospitable and equitable city. Their stories compel us to reflect not only on Vietnams’ self-determination and sustainability, but our own future in an increasingly urbanized world.