Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Documentarian Jennifer Baichwal's latest film, Manufactured Landscapes, represents a multifaceted effort. The picture ostensibly provides a thought-provoking investigation of photographer Edward Burtynsky's legacy, with its aesthetic studies of industrial landscapes. But Baichwal's documentary probes deeper than a mere surface-level glimpse of Burtynsky's life and work. It uses the topic of Burtynsky as a springboard, segueing, from there, into a protracted exploration of "the aesthetic, social and spiritual dimensions of industrialization and globalization." Whereas Burtynsky's photographs reveal human beings dwarfed by the massive industrialized landscape that surrounds them, Baichwal (much as Louis Malle did in his Humain, Trop Humain) sheds a light on the tedium and monotony suffered by workers who are assigned small components of huge manufacturing processes, and must endure the repetitive work that it entails. She and cinematographer Peter Mettler also travel to China and Bangladesh -- the corner of the world that serves as a destination for much of the West's industrial waste -- and convey the devastating impact that corporate disposal makes on indigenes, such as the two young men who must wade around, waist deep, in toxic sludge while tearing ships apart with their bare hands. The picture thus raises some significant and sobering questions about the impact that we, as humans, make on our environment.
blue-collar, landscape, photography