Megacities is a three part documentary series that uses five cities around the world to illustrate the rise and maintenance of the megacity. The five cities that are visited throughout the documentary are London, United Kingdom (one of the oldest); Mexico City, Mexico (one of the most hazardous); Tokyo, Japan (currently the largest); Dhaka, Bangladesh (the fastest growing); and Shanghai, China (the one that sees itself as the new capitol of the world). This is only a small sampling of the twenty cities around the world that boast more than ten million inhabitants thus qualifying as a megacity.
This documentary is beautifully filmed and full of great information. To see how different all the cities are around the world in extremely interesting. The cultures of the countries sculpt the way in which they deal with the running of their largest cities. China is focused on making themselves a world power, thus many people are being pushed out of their homes so Shanghai can build new and more modern buildings on the sites. Mexico is trying to keep its friendly nature while still dealing with the major crime problem. And in Japan, they have one of the most reliable train systems in the world because it is so organized and meticulous. By keeping the cultures of the country in the back of your mind while watching the documentary, it gives the information a whole new depth.
Megacities has three one hour episodes, “Living in the City”, “Cities on the Edge”, and “Sustaining the City”. Each episode looks at the different ways that each of the five cities handles the certain aspects of daily life. Marr gets into the streets and interacts with the populations, which are the true heart and veins of the city itself. These interactions are the best parts of the documentary because you feel as if you can learn more from these people then from just facts and statistics.
“Living in the City” looks at the ways in which the populations of the cities live on a day to day basis. The five cities are extremely different. This become evident quickly as we look at the ways the people live in their homes. Tokyo, despite its modern tendencies and being the largest in the world, is also one of the most isolated and cookie cutter of all the cities in the documentary. At the other end of the spectrum, in Dhaka most of the population lives in the slums and the population of Mexico City has to deal with one of the highest crime rate in the world.
In the episode, “Cities on the Edge”, Marr looks at how these cities deal with disasters either man-made like crime or natural, such as earthquakes. In London, Marr learns how to become a riot officer. He goes through the training of the volunteer police officers and learns what it is like to have things thrown at you while trying to break up a riot.
“Sustaining the City” looks at how each of the cities works to make the day to day living feasible for its population. Transportation, food, and garbage disposal are high on the priority list in this episode. In Mexico City, Marr looks at how the city deals with its open sewer system. A system which entails a person diving deep into the garbage in order to unclog drains periodically, which can get clogged from large trees, car parts, and unfortunately even dead bodies. In Dhaka, Marr learns what it is like to move people from one part of the city to another on a bike; lots of sweat and leg muscles!
Along with the DVD, Megacities comes with a twelve page booklet. This viewer’s guide gives additional information that supplements the information in the program. From a timeline of major events in the growth of modern cities, discussions of the first city, and even small discussions on cities that were planned instead of allowed to grow organically. Although brief, the viewer’s guide is informative and well thought out. Other special features include a biography of Andrew Marr and extension discussions available at athenalearning.com.