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Forbidden City

(1997, Matt Ehling; 26 minutes)  VHS $15

Forbidden City"Forbidden City" is a journey behind the gates of high security suburbia.  Using the outlying suburbs of Las Vegas as the site of its investigation, the film explores the phenomenon of secured, walled  communities, and the psychology that drives them.  From the spartan subdivision on Craig Ranch, to the sprawling leisure park of Lake Las Vegas, the  residential neighborhoods of southern Nevada stand  behind imposing security walls, and are surveilled by  high-tech electronics and armed guards.   Designed and marketed as perfect American communities, these gated subdivisions are pristine, efficient environments, with strange and incongruous details grafted onto them.  With gates, cameras, and armed guards posted at every turn, life inside these gated enclaves suggests an unusual fusion of residential  paradise and authoritarian rule  The spectacle of middle America choosing to barricade itself against the outside world in this way raises provocative questions about the future of social cohesion in America, and the extent to which we are willing to sacrifice our autonomy for the promise of "security".

To explore these issues, "Forbidden City" interviews gated community residents, sales people, and security consultants, and cross-cuts them with vintage industrial film footage to create a psychological portrait of life behind the gates.  Interview subjects include local Vegas celebrity Glenn Campbell, best known for his appearances in Learning Channel documentaries about the secret military test base,  Area 51.