May 19, 2024

The Unforeseen: A Terrific Movie

Earlier this month I attended the New York opening for The Unforeseen, Laura Dunn’s new documentary about the clash of values and struggle to protect Barton Springs in Austin from the consequences of sprawling exurban development. I also met Laura and her husband, Jef Sewell, a well-known executive for an entrepreneurial fulfilment company that serves entertainment Web sites. 


David Brancaccio, the host of PBS’s Now program, also has taken an interest in Laura and the film and featured it and her in an online review for the show last week. It’s timely stuff, well worth watching, and includes a take with Robert Redford, who co-produced and appears in the film. I’ve been doing a little bit to help Laura get the film into the upcoming Traverse City Film Festival, Michael Moore’s three-year-old celluloid celebration that is now a much-awaited event on northern Michigan’s calendar. It occurs this year from July 31 to August 5.

The Unforeseen’s strength comes from its even-handedness and its universal qualities, displaying the drama of the contentiousness about how to grow in the United States, and the real pain suffered by advocates on every side. Lost in the center of the struggle, as in almost every important question about our future, is the Austin government and the state of Texas. Public officials have almost nothing useful to add to the much more thoughtful considerations offered by citizens and developers. There is, however, a telling moment in the film that spotlights George W. Bush, who was able to seize on one side of the argument about property rights and ride it to victory in the Texas governor’s race in 1994.   

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