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This doc series goes beyond 'bright lights, big city' and really investigates the very fabric of modern international urbanism....
Acorn Media / 172 Minutes / 2011 / Unrated / Street Date: August 21, 2012
The definition of a 'megacity' - as put forward by this three-part documentary - is one that claims a population of upwards of ten million denizens. By that rubric there are upwards of twenty-five of them on the modern planet, but Megacities doesn't throw its net quite that wide: this Andrew Marr-narrated investigation takes aim at five representative 'megacities', comparing and contrasting their varying cultural, financial, and physical elements.
What is particularly intriguing about this simple yet elegant doc is its apparent willingness to ask tough questions. Issues of poverty and increased violence within - and even because of - these megacities have no bright-and-shiny end result, but Marr and company nevertheless are so interested in cobbling together unique narratives for their five representative locales (the series focuses on Dhaka, Mexico City, London, Shanghai, and Tokyo) that they're not afraid to snowball through ideas that may not have logical or empirical end points.
Megacities is a robust compilation of talking points, an illumination on what compacted urban presence means in the 21st century and how that reflects the good, the bad, and the ugly within our collective human spirit. There's no major magic moment to cite on this documentary set - as informative and engaging as it may be, there aren't any "Eureka!" epiphanies - but that doesn't mean Megacities isn't smart, compelling entertainment.