Investigation & Politics 4x45'

Cities Under Threat

Episode 1, Venice:

Founded in the fifth century, Venice is built across around 100 islands linked by canals and more than 300 bridges. The city floods increasingly often, which has prompted concern from both politicians and scientists, who are keeping a close watch on this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To counter the rising waters, the city has embarked on a vast project entitled MOSE (Moses in Italian), which consists of a highly sophisticated structure of dykes to prevent flooding. How was such an engineering prowess made possible? What resources have been mobilized for this one-of-a-kind construction?

Like a journey back in time, this documentary goes from the city’s foundations to the Venice we know today. Historians, architects, engineers and residents share their love for this unique city, which they are trying to save from the waters through an ambitious architectural project on an unprecedented scale.


Episode 2, Tokyo:

With its 37.7 million inhabitants, Tokyo is the most populated urban zone on the planet. Almost 80% of the Japanese population lives in towns and urban expansion on the archipelago has reached levels unparalleled in Europe. The Japanese capital looks like no other city in the world and is characterised by its wide variety of architectural styles and a constantly evolving urban landscape. 

Built on a fault line, threatened by flooding and several active volcanoes, the city seems doomed to disappear, and yet… new construction projects abound. Over time, to counter the various threats, and building on the experience gained from past catastrophes, architects have built a “city” beneath the city to tackle the issues relative to earthquakes and flooding.

A veritable experimental laboratory of modern architecture and technical innovation, will Tokyo manage to combat the much-feared “Big one” that is expected to take place some time during the next 30 years? How will the capital of Japan evolve over the course of the 21st century and what techniques will be put in place to avoid the worst scenario? Historians, architects, and engineers reveal the ambitious projects under development to save this unique city.


Episode 3, New York:

New York, the American symbol of power, is being threatened. As a mosaic of islands surrounded by a bay along the Atlantic Ocean, the city is barely above the sea level. But global warming has put the city at risk of devastating floods, and by the end of the century, cataclysmic hurricanes could strike.  

Today, the danger is real: 400,000 New Yorkers live in flood zones. To save the city, engineers are dreaming up amazing technologies: a giant deployable wall that folds out around Manhattan, oysterbeds in the bay, or waterproof skyscrapers.    

Discover the extraordinary adventure of a remarkable city that could soon be destroyed at the hand of what created it: water.


Episode 4, Amsterdam:

Over the years, the face of Amsterdam, known as the «Venice of the North», has been constantly remodeled and redesigned by engineers. Using dunes, dykes, polders, and colossal dams to preserve the city from the North Sea and riverfloods, more than once, Amsterdam’s inhabitants have saved and rebuilt the city using staggering and ever more ingenious techniques.

Exacerbated by climate change, sea-level rise, which may well accelerate over the coming decades, has become a major concern for this country which has over a quarter of its land below sea level.

How is Amsterdam preparing to meet these challenges? Will the technology and infrastructures developed since the city’s foundation be enough to keep danger at bay? This investigation grasps how the Dutch invest, test, build and redesign their land again and again. In their own way, they are reshaping the planet’s future.

  • Episode 1: Venice
  • Episode 2: Tokyo
  • Episode 3: New York
  • Episode 4: Amsterdam 

Direction: Barbara Necek, Thomas Risch, Juliette Desbois & Marion Vaqué-Marti

Production: ZED for RMC Découverte

Languages: French, English

awards & festivals

  • Festival du Film Scientifique de la Réunion

    Official selection - episode "New York under Threat"

  • Ekotopfilm - Envirofilm Festival (Slovakia)

    Official Selection, "success stories" category (Venice episode)

see also