Planet Earth-esque documentaries focusing on cities, etc.?
January 3, 2013 1:35 AM   Subscribe

I love Planet Earth, Life, and other documentaries that David Attenborough is associated with -- as much for the educational value as for the beautiful cinematography and show-not-tell approach. They're works of art in and of themselves. Are there any documentaries in a similar vein that focus on cities, architecture, landmarks, and other human creations? For example, it would be incredible to explore Tokyo through the same lens!
posted by archagon to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
There was an excellent series on the BBC recently called Supersized Earth which tells the "The spectacular story of how we have redesigned our planet to build the modern world".

It doesn't quite have the majesty of an Attenborough documentary, it has the rather more conventional format of a narrator/journalist going out to meet people and see it for himself. But it is beautifully shot and heavily geared to spectacular imagery of cities and massive infrastructure.

You can find some episodes on YouTube and other nefarious sources.

(Oh, and if you didn't already know, Attenborough's latest nature documentary series: Africa, premiered last night on the BBC here in the UK. Amazing Stuff)
posted by TheOtherGuy at 2:54 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Baraka from 20 years ago, and Samsara which I saw at a cinema today are, in my mind, masterpieces of cinematography. They more focus on humanity's impact on nature, and ourselves, rather than our creations, although cities and massive populations do get some attention. There's no dialogue at all, just ... pictures of life. To me, they are very powerful, and worth seeing on the big screen while you can (Samsara, that is - in cinemas now. Baraka is on DVD/Bluray).
posted by Diag at 3:07 AM on January 3, 2013

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? has some beautiful cinematography. You might also enjoy Urbanized. And if you like the show-don't-tell approach, you must absolutely watch Sweetgrass.
posted by oulipian at 3:11 AM on January 3, 2013

Aerial America.
posted by chasles at 3:53 AM on January 3, 2013

Have you ever seen Koyaanasqatsi?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:27 AM on January 3, 2013

I mentioned Civilization a few months back - it was posted in the blue - I said then and I reiterate - utterly utterly stunning. The episode on the Baroque alone is a masterpiece.
posted by mattoxic at 5:37 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

BBC's Human Planet was exactly this.
posted by Erasmouse at 7:43 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Building Big could fit. It has more of an emphasis on "cities, architecture, landmarks, and other human creations" than beautiful cinematography, but is still fascinating.
posted by danceswithlight at 8:41 AM on January 3, 2013

Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudí has almost no narration, just footage of Gaudi's buildings in Barcelona as well as some of his influences.
posted by theodolite at 10:19 AM on January 3, 2013

mattoxic: thanks for mentioning it again. It looks amazing and I can't wait to see it.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 11:10 AM on January 3, 2013

Seconding Koyaanasqatsi. You do have to watch it critically, since it's showing its age in terms of what it depicts, its sound design, and cinematography, but it's a beautiful, beautiful experience.
posted by Nomyte at 1:15 PM on January 3, 2013

Not entirely the same thing, but One Day on Earth and Life in a Day are essentially the same idea done by two different directors, using user-supplied video. I enjoyed them both.
posted by cnc at 2:27 PM on January 3, 2013

The PBS series America Revealed "uses beautiful and breath-taking aerial photography to provide an otherwise unseen view of America and use original data visualizations to demonstrate how our systems work."

Here's a fun mini-story from one of the episodes:
America Revealed: Pizza Delivery
posted by djpyk at 11:35 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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