Manufactured Landscapes: The Movie

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After hearing Edward Burtynsky speak and watching his slides at the Worldchanging booklaunch, we raced to the movie theatre to see Manufactured Landscapes: "a feature length documentary on the world and work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky....he film follows Burtynsky to China as he travels the country photographing the evidence and effects of that country’s massive industrial revolution. Sites such as the Three Gorges Dam, which is bigger by 50% than any other dam in the world and displaced over a million people, factory floors over a kilometre long, and the breathtaking scale of Shanghai’s urban renewal are subjects for his lens and our motion picture camera."At Worldchanging Ed talked about the dolly shot at the beginning of the movie, where the camera rolls down a side aisle past endless rows of workers clad in identical yellow jackets making who knows what, we think irons but it does not seem possible that the world could possibly need so many. It goes on. And on. And that is even before the credits.


It is really impossible to describe. Coal yards the size of small states.


The Three gorges dam, twice as big as any other in the world, swallowing up cities where people are paid by the brick to dismantle their own homes.

Burtynsky swears he is not being political; the movie website says "What makes the photographs so powerful is his refusal in them to be didactic. We are all implicated here, they tell us: there are no easy answers. The film continues this approach of presenting complexity, without trying to reach simplistic judgements or reductive resolutions." But the viewer can't help but make them, the imagery is too strong. It is an intensely political movie and you come out shocked to the core. You wonder what the point is in doing anything to mitigate climate change when you see those piles of coal, those endless seas of high-rises with an air conditioner in every window.

The film is a National Film Board of Canada production, directed by Jennifer Baichwal. It has been in the theatres for a few weeks and I was surprised to find it pretty full on a Wednesday night, so we hope American and other distributors are lining up for it. ::Manufactured Landscapes site (with trailer)