Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Manufactured Landscapes

I had wanted to see this movie even before I knew it was playing at the Salem Film Fest. When I was at the 2005 Venice Biennale, I saw Edward Burtynsky's photographs. The scale of what he was shooting as well as the images themselves was breathtaking. When I heard that there was a movie about him and eventually that we would be playing it at our theater was thrilling.

The movie was made by Jennifer Baichwal, not Burtynsky, and it seemed like it was filmed to be part homage, part documentary. The opening tracking shot is mind blowing. It attempts to capture through video what Burtynsky does through still photographs. The camera goes from one end to another in a massive Chinese factory, taking about 10 to 15 minutes to do so. When standing at one end of the building, you can barely see the other side.

There is very little narration in the movie. The only time we hear Burtynsky's voice is either from him talking out in the field while he's photographing or through sparse clips taken from what seems to be a lecture he gave. Baichwal lets Burtynsky's images speak for themselves, which is exactly what he intends. His goal is to pursue his interest in urban landscapes and it's effect on nature, never putting a positive or negative spin on his images but rather showing them just the way they are.

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