The Urbanist

Cities on the big screen

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Cover art for The Urbanist

4 February 2016

Episode 225

30 minutes


Photo: Moyan Brenn

This week we’ve joined forces with ‘The Cinema Show’ to bring you a special episode on the relationship between our cities and the big screen. We explore how movies can shape a city as a brand, chat with James Sanders about New York on film and head to Belgrade to see how the city has posed as others in film productions. Plus: espionage and mystery in Istanbul. Why is the city always the set of spy movies, mystique and drama?

4 February 2016

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Chapter 1

4 minutes


Photo: Moyan Brenn

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Chapter 1

Espionage and mystery in Istanbul

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On the surface, Istanbul seems like a city of soaring minarets, Byzantine beauty and grandiose views. But beneath it all is a much grittier city where intrigue has often lurked behind an ornate façade – and it is this that surfaces when the camera is on.​

4 minutes

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Chapter 2

7 minutes

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Chapter 2

Film and Rio de Janeiro as a brand

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Rio de Janeiro is the city of sun, samba and Christ the Redeemer but it’s also the land of drug trafficking and police violence, all of which have been shown in many different forms across screens large and small. Iconic Brazilian films such as ‘City of God’ and ‘Elite Squad’ have used Brazil’s second-biggest city as a film set and even James Bond made an appearance when Roger Moore rolled through in ‘Moonraker’. We examine what these films have done for brand Rio.

7 minutes

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Chapter 3

6 minutes


Photo: Jeff Attaway

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Chapter 3

Belgrade: city understudy

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Belgrade was once the capital of the sizeable Yugoslav film industry but then the 1990s conflict and dire economic conditions put paid to former industry giants such as Avala films. But now there’s a revival underway. Belgrade is appearing on film again – both as itself and other cities, where shooting might be difficult because of cost or logistics.

6 minutes

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Chapter 4

7 minutes


Photo: Harold Navarro

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Chapter 4

New York and cinema with James Sanders

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New York has been featured in a huge number of films but how does this relationship between city and the big screen actually work? The book ‘Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies’ is a landmark study that examines exactly this, penned by the renowned architect, author and film-maker James Sanders back in 2001.

7 minutes

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