Third-World Metropolises: The New Face Of Cities

Recent popular literature and movies have focused on megacities in developing nations. Do they symbolize the international city of the 21st century?
March 28, 2006, 11am PST | David Gest
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"Is the third-world metropolis taking over western culture? Tsotsi, a film about Johannesburg gangs, released in the UK this month, took the 2006 Oscar for best foreign-language film. Another Oscar went to The Constant Gardener, an account of dark forces at work in Nairobi whose director, Fernando Meirelles, shot to international fame in 2002 with his portrait of a Rio favela, City of God. The Raindance Film Festival last October climaxed with a screening of Secuestro express, a film about abduction gangs in Caracas. And at the end of 2004, two bestselling books explored the fiercely competitive under- and over-worlds of Mumbai: Suketu Mehta's Maximum City and Gregory David Roberts's Shantaram, which will be released next year as a major Hollywood motion picture directed by Peter Weir."

"If, for the better part of the 20th century, it was New York and its glistening imitations that symbolised the future, it is now the stacked-up, sprawling, impromptu city-countries of the third world. The idea of the total, centralised, maximally efficient, planned city has long since lost its futuristic appeal: its confidence and ambition have turned to anxiety and besiegement; its homogenising obsession has induced counter-fantasies of insubordination, excess and life forms in chaotic variety. Such desires find in the third-world metropolis a scope, a speed, a more fecund ecology."

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Published on Monday, March 27, 2006 in New Statesman
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