A semester-long course on Oklahoma Citys modern history has been crammed into a two-hour long documentary with Mayor Mick Cornett serving as professor.
In Oklahoma City: The Boom, the Bust and the Bomb, Cornett gives a Ken Burns-esque treatment to the citys oil boom in the 1970s, its financial collapse of the 1980s, the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing and the impact it had on our city.
I dont think at the time I was elected mayor I realized how special and how unique [our history as a city] was, Cornett, who was elected mayor in 2004, said following a Monday screening. I guess I just figured every city has a past and we had one too.
A new generation of citizens who were born after the events chronicled in the film only know an Oklahoma City that, while still an underdog compared to the likes of places like Denver and Austin, is a growing metropolis with a developing culture and entertainment scene unimaginable just a few decades ago. But the citys new generation including myself lacks much knowledge of how risk-taking drillers, the collapse of local banks and a terrorist attack not only changed the citys course, but directly impacted its growth of the past 20 years.
Rather than simply retell stories of the citys past, Cornett draws specific connections between pivotal events and the thinking of city leaders and citizens as they took on aggressive tax programs and capital investments in an effort to transform the city from a literal wasteland to a modern urban center.
The more I started studying MAPS and MAPS for kids, and the things done before [I became mayor], I realized when I was going around the country talking about it, those things werent happening anywhere else, Cornett said.
Cornett believes OKC has faced a level of turmoil seen by few other American cities. He believes the renaissance of the past two decades is also unique.
Other cities havent been through this, said Cornett, referring to the collapse and revival of Oklahoma City.
The documentary is dense and includes dozens of individual storylines that could be developed into their own feature documentary. But the use of graphics and photographs, along with a few laughs, not only help balance out this otherwise serious film, it gives it a level of approachability for even non-history minded viewers.
The citys story deserves to be told to a national audience. But had Cornett had that goal in mind this documentary would have most likely become a surface-deep film more suitable for a chamber of commerce event.
What Cornett has created is a film made for the Oklahoma City viewer, especially those of us who lack understanding and appreciation for what the city was before it become an example of successful urban renewal.
Oklahoma City: The Boom, the Bust and the Bomb opens April 10 at Harkins Theatres with four showings daily. Read this week's Gazette for more information.
Pick up the April 8 issue of Oklahoma Gazette for more coverage of the documentary.