A great Canadian documentary to make us all think

At the beginning of Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes, her camera travels the floor of a massive Chinese factory — more than a kilometer in length — as workers at assembly lines labour away prouctivedly. Then the camera freeze frames into a perfectly composed photo, the work of Canadian photogapher Edward Burtynsky, subject of this rivetting feature length documentary.

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Burtynsky shows what man has wrought.

Manufactuired Landscapes won the Toronto-City award at this year’s TIFF, and is a timely reminder of world wide changes that all of us must think about.

Burtynsky’s reputation has been built on his large scale photographs of man-altered landscapes: quarries, recycycling yards, shipyards, factories, mines and dams.

Manufactured Landscapes takes us from North America to far China showing first, live, the arresting scenes Burtynsky choses as his subjects and then the resulting works of photography.

In China we witness the massive industrial revolution taking place. The towering skeleton of a vessel in a shipbuiling yard becomes a work of art. The Three Gorges dam, when completed in 2009 will be fifty percent bigger than any other in the world, displacing and resettling a million people. Shanghai’s growth is portrayed in all its enormity as small locales are swallowed up by skyscrapers.

Neither Baichwal nor Burtynski editorialize in the film. They merely record. They leave it to us to ponder the effects these massive changes are having on both the planet and on humanity. There are no easy answers. We are all implicated as we face decisions on our future that we must demand from goverments or ignore. I for one, hope that Manufactured Landscapes, now in release will have deep impact.

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