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Film Details

Directed by: Jennifer Baichwal

Produced: 2006

Countries & Regions: Canada

DVD Details

Certificate: U

Studio: British Film Institute

Length: 83 mins

Format: DVD

Released: 22 September 2008

Cat No: BFIVD782

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Manufactured Landscapes

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Award-winning Canadian documentary focusing on the work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Jennifer Baichwal’s film centres on... Read More

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Award-winning Canadian documentary focusing on the work of renowned artist Edward Burtynsky. Jennifer Baichwal’s film centres on Burtynsky’s large-scale photographs that show the cataclysmic effects of industrial expansion on the earth’s environment. Baichwal portrays the artist at work amid some of the strangest landscapes of the 21st century: China’s mountains of computer waste; the Yangtze River where whole towns are disappearing in the flooding caused by the Three Gorges Dam; the shipbreaking yards of Bangladesh; and Shanghai, with its increasingly crowded skyline and millions of new inhabitants.

This is a documentary with dual subjects. Nominally a portrait of the Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky (and sharing its title with his book of the same name), Baichwal’s film is also about the subjects of his large-scale photographs – “the new landscapes of our time”; places where industrial activities scar and poison the earth, where raw materials from these sites are assembled into consumer goods of every description, and the places where the concomitant human detritus of every description is dumped and sometimes sorted for re-use. The photographs he produces – landscapes turned surreal through mining residues, ships being broken in Bangladesh, computer waste that resembles autumn leaves – reveal the paucity of our language for describing such troubling beauty.

The film doesn’t preach. Instead, it shows the world, says “this is how it is”, and leaves us to think – hard – about the networks and goods that allow us to be who we are.

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