Manufactured Landscapes (Canada; 80 min.)


directed by: Jennifer Baichwal
documentary
Manufactured Landscapes
 

Bruce says: "MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a portrait of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky who is known for his landscapes. The title refers to a series of photographs he shoots on a trip to Asia. Rather than photograph the natural wonders of China, he concentrates on the factory life and the waste that is being created by the greatest industrialization and the most rapid economic expansion the world has ever seen. This film is an interesting companion piece to the recent CHINA BLUE, a documentary featuring the denim industry on the southern coast of China.

"The opening shot of MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is worth sitting through the rest of the film which, for the most part, does not measure up. Slowly the video camera moves across the floor of a giant factory each row of which is dedicated to a different type of product assembly. One expects to reach the far wall of the plant any second but the camera keeps moving slowly from row to row to row, on...and on….and on. The size of the factory is so huge it is difficult to guess how big it really is but a conservative estimate would be the size of six to eight connected football fields. The workers are divided into teams often differentiated by subtle variations in their bright yellow shirts which have a yellow checkered taxi motif. Later, the workers assemble outdoors for a gigantic group photo shot between the factory buildings. It is a shot not unlike the photographs of Andrea Gursky.

"As an introduction to his work a 'slide show' is used to present Burtynsky’s still photos, which we see later at a large museum opening. Burtynsky travels to toxic waste dumps and photographs bundles of many types of waste. His pictures are abstractions that give the viewer no clue as to their content or source. Metals and plastics are twisted and torn; smashed, shredded and bundled. The camera often moves back from a detail to reveal a large still photograph, not the pull-back video shot it initially seemed.

"The film rambles on with voiceovers discussing globalization and presenting some interesting facts, e.g., shipping has enabled globalization to take on the proportions it has. Tossing that tidbit, the filmmaker quickly travels to Bangladesh to document abandoned oil tankers being dismantled for scrap material. Sporadically, the thrust of the film changes from Burtynsky to a discussion of disastrous world economic model that has been created within the past two decades. This shift produces a dichotomy that serves neither topic well.

"Beautiful photographs do not add up to a satisfying film. At best, MANUFACTURED LANDACAPES is quixotic. 2.5 cats

"MANUFACTURED LANDACAPES screened at the 2007 Miami International Film Festival"