“The Resilience Age” Is a Movie About How Society Can Thrive—No Matter What Lies Ahead

Our cities need to be resilient now more than ever. The new film shows how.

“The Resilience Age” Is a Movie About How Society Can Thrive—No Matter What Lies Ahead

About a week before the U.S. presidential election, the Rockefeller Foundation released a documentary called The Resilience Age. The hour-long film chronicles how cities are planning the uncertain future, essentially redesigning both their operations and infrastructure to be able to adapt to the social stresses of increased urban density and environmental complications from climate change.


Though the timing was unintentional, the result is a blueprint of how society can continue to press forward no matter what policy changes the next administration adopts. Samuel Carter, the managing director of Rockefeller’s resilience divisions, says the idea is for places to adopt a “hazard agnostic” approach to growth. “Resilience is the capacity of any community, organization or individual to respond to the challenges of the future.” That includes bracing for everything from natural disasters, to economic decline and homelessness.

Resilience is also a key theme at Rockefeller, which believes national, even global change can start at a city level. In a way, municipalities are the perfect ecosystems to try transformational projects that other cities can tweak or adopt. To that end, the group has invested over a half billion dollars in various resilience initiatives including the National Disaster Resilience Competition and 100 Resilient Cities.

According to Carter, the film’s concept began with the idea of chronicling several success stories that others could learn from. The group quickly realized that had they enough material for a movie about the broader global movement. Resilience test cases include New Orleans, which has rebuilt better, greener and stronger in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. (See the clip below.)

In Detroit, residents are reclaiming abandoned factories for community projects and have turned to urban farming to beat food deserts. There are statewide examples too. Drought-stricken Texas, for instance, is pioneering a new strategy for water collection and conservation that includes desalination plants and smarter-use policies.

Supporting issue driven films has become a popular tactic for the foundation, which recently backed Citizen Jane: Battle For The City, which chronicles the efforts of activist Jane Jacobs to stop the once massive wave of destabilizing urban development in New York. (She wrote the 1960’s classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities.) In October, they announced a partnership with Anthony Bourdain to create Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. The Resilience Age is available for free online and has it’s own promotional materials for officials or community groups who want to organize screenings.

Correction: This article previously implied Rockefeller had created Citizen Jane, the foundation provided financial backing but did not make it.

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.