Manufactured Landscapes Jennifer Baichwal

The work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky is concerned with matters of industrial refuse, globalisation and urban design. With Manufactured Landscapes, filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal delivers a complex, meditative investigation on Burtynsky’s work in Asia, following him from factories to landfills, from ship-breaking grounds to modern Shanghai. Jennifer Baichwal has built a career of remarkable films about artists — Let It Come Down‚ about writer and composer Paul Bowles, The True Meaning of Pictures‚ about Appalachian photographer Shelby Lee Adams, and most recently, a series of 40 short films on Ontario Arts Council grant recipients. Here, Baichwal’s gaze is aimed parallel to Burtynsky’s, and instead of focusing on matters of representation in photographic art, the film focuses on urban renewal, on construction, on the lifecycle of waste. Instead of hearing about Burtynsky’s photography in the context of, say, modern art or urban exploration, we see a town devoted to collecting precious metals from former computers. Admirably, the film seems to depict transitional landscapes, the points between natural beauty and the chaotic Mondrian-esque beauty of a metal recycling plant in Hamilton. Here, there are no eulogies for what might once have been, only cycles of production and destruction. Director of photography Peter Mettler translates the subtle details of Burtynsky’s work to film. His camera finds the humanity within a landscape, and zooming out, reveals it again in the context of that landscape. The same technique is used throughout with prints of Burtynsky’s own photography and serves to highlight the depths of meaning Burtynsky’s work holds to both minor and global scales. Of special note is the astonishing opening shot, a long track through an expansive and active factory. With Manufactured Landscapes, Baichwal and company have fashioned a timely and provocative bridge between industry and the individual, as well as perhaps the best Canadian documentary of the year. (Mongrel Media)