TV Review: “Independent Lens: Objectified” (PBS)

Written by Television, TV Reviews

ObjectifiedGary Hustwit is best known (to me, anyway) as the filmmaker behind the award-winning documentary about Wilco, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, and his film about synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog, simply called Moog. He also got my attention by managing to make a very interesting film about, of all things, a font. That was Helvetica, and it was the first in Hustwit’s planned trilogy about design. Now he has returned with the second entry in his trilogy, Objectified. The new film will premiere November 24 on PBS as part of the Independent Lens series. Check your local listings for time and channel in your area.

Most people don’t think much about design. We touch and use hundreds of items in a day without giving a second thought about who made them, or why they look and feel as they do. Fortunately, there are people who give a lot of thought to design, and those people are the subjects of Hustwit’s film. Through in-depth conversations with people like Paola Antonelli, the design curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Chris Bangle of the BMW Group in Munich, Bill Moggridge co-founder IDEO (who designed what may have been the first laptop computer, which he demonstrates), and Jonathan Ive at Apple, Hustwit gets to the heart of creative design and thinking.

Along the way, we learn that the advent of the microchip has changed everything for designers, in that form no longer needs to follow function in many products. The ongoing dilemma of introducing new products in a world that is already buried under mountains of waste is also addressed, along with the idea that perhaps it’s time to enjoy some of the things that we already have, things that may be lurking in our closets, before buying new things. There’s an environmental and social price to pay for the creation of all of these products, and here it is weighed against the need for new things, and the theory of planned obsolescence.

Objectified gives us a look at the creative process that drives industrial design, and the bigger picture thinking that moves it forward. What could have been a dry intellectual treatise on a subject of little interest to most people instead becomes a thought-provoking film about the concepts that shape our physical world. I’ll never look at my toothbrush the same way again.

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