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Documentary Review | Dream Big: Engineering Our World

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Dream Big: Engineering Our World is an engaging piece of documentary filmmaking. It’s an ode to civil and structural engineers who for centuries have helped thwart the insurmountable challenges thrown at us by the mother nature, using their ingenuity and determination.

Directed by Greg MacGillivray, the documentary has its heart in the right place, it has the right amount of ingredients, too, to keep the viewer riveted. Yet it falls short of being a benchmark project in its niche.

Laced with stunning visuals, Dream Big: Engineering Our World is a petit documentary. I say petit because it has a runtime of 42 minutes whereas the subject that it delves into demands more exploration. But for those 42 minutes, it manages to hook you.

Funded by Bechtel corporation, a century-old engineering and construction company, Dream Big has no trappings of a paid program. Rather it looks into how engineering can solve the world’s hairy problems and how it can transform the potential of a city and a country. The voiceover of the Hollywood Star Jeff Bridges adds to the overall rendition.

Every building, every bridge grows from an engineer’s imagination.”

The documentary poses a moot question at the start – By 2045, there will be 9 billion of us…where will we all live? But the question does not get the addressal it deserves. In fact, the director only scratches the surface by touching upon the solutions of smart cities, hyperloops, etc.

In order to underline the importance of building innovative engineering solutions, Dream Big: Engineering Our World weaves in a bunch of inspiring narratives in its wee runtime.

Shanghai Tower (pic courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org)
  • There is the story of Menzer Pehlivan, a Seattle-based geotechnical engineer, who survived a devastating earthquake early in her childhood and who now works on finding solutions to building structures on weakened soil.
  • Story of China’s tallest building – Shanghai Tower – where engineers added 120 degree twist to the facade, thus, averting the risk of typhoons booming head on into the tower. Ingenuity of a twist, points out Jeff Bridges.
  • There is also the story of Avery Bang whose mission is to build build foot-bridges across deprived regions of Central America.

The problem with these narratives is that they look disjointed. Towards the end, there is an underdog story of a community high school that beats top-tier schools in a robotics competition.

I loved this little piece, it surely was motivational, but I couldn’t figure out how it fit in with the conceived aim of the documentary.

To cut the long story short, the documentary does capture your imagination, but that happens only in bits and pieces. Sadly, the bigger picture never emerges.

My gripe with the documentary is that it piques your curiosity, heightens your interest and then leave you be.

In the end, Dream Big: Engineering Our World turns out to be a pre-big-event episode than the full-scale thing it should have been. That said, if you have kids between 10 and 14 years, do watch this documentary with them. They would be inspired and motivated to work on their own practical projects.


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