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Manufactured Landscapes (US Edition)
Manufactured Landscapes
US Edition
Actor: Edward Burtynsky
Director: Jennifer Baichwal
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
UR     2007     1hr 30min

In the spirit of such environmentally enlightening hits as AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH and RIVERS AND TIDES, MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES powerfully shifts our consciousness about the world and the way we live in it. — The film follow...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Edward Burtynsky
Director: Jennifer Baichwal
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/20/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
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Movie Reviews

Unforgettable Journey into Edward Burtynsky's Striking Indus
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 12/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I didn't know what to expect after the opening 8-minute tracking shot spanned a Chinese factory's considerable length. "Manufactured Landscapes" is about the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, but this film is unlike any other I've seen on the subject of an artist and his work. Burtynsky has made a name -and many beautiful photographs- in "industrial landscapes". Struck by the ways in which modern humanity has transformed Earth's landscape, he seeks out "the largest industrial incursions" he can find. His photographs are fascinating and surprisingly beautiful representations of the heart of modernization and globalization.

Director Jennifer Baichwal accompanied Burtynsky on several trips to Asia, observing the artist at work and allowing a movie camera to see the industrial landscape as he does. This gives the photographs context that they don't normally have, and Burtynsky takes the opportunity to comment in a spare narration. Baichwal wisely subscribes to the same philosophy as Burtynsky in never interpreting or demystifying the photos. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of Burtynsky's photographs are presented in the film and amazed at how well the movie footage supports and directs the viewer into them.

After photographing extraction industries for 10 years, Burtynsky turned his attention to China, where all those materials coalesce and are turned into products we consume. We go with him as he documents the rapidly changing landscapes at a factory, a village that recycles "e-waste", a shipyard, coal mine, the incredible Three Gorges Dam, and China's fastest-growing city, Shanghai. A short trip to a shipwrecking beach in Bangladesh is particularly astonishing. "Manufactured Landscapes" showed me things I had never seen before. And it is content just to show them without judgment.

The DVD (Zeitgeist 2007): Bonus features include 5 additional scenes, a theatrical trailer, and 3 featurettes. "Discussion with the Director and Edward Burtynsky" (19 min) is very worthwhile. Richard Goddard interviews Baichwal and Burtynsky about questions of authorship, perspective, what the film brings to the photos, and touches on the controversial aspects of the Burtynsky's photos. "Al Gore at the Nashville Film Festival" (9 min) records the former Vice President's speech as he presents Baichwal with an award. "Mini-Interview with the Cinematographer/Collaborator" (5 min) talks with Peter Mettler about working with both a photographer and a director. Subtitles are available for the film in English SDH."
The Beauty of Waste
Oscar Jubis | Miami | 07/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Jennifer Baichwal's documentary is a companion to renowned artist Edward Burtynsky's large-scale photographs depicting man's violent alteration of natural environments. Burtynsky achieved notoriety when he documented mine tailings, rail cuts, quarries and oil refineries, mostly located in North America. Baichwal shows Burtynsky at a lecture and exhibition of this material then travels to Asia with him to document the process of creating art based on China's industrial revolution. Manufactured Landscapes opens with an amazing tracking shot from the sidelines of a factory so enormous that the shot lasts eight minutes. There are stunning views of recycling yards and mountains of electronic refuse. Manufactured Landscapes takes us to the site of the Three Gorges Dam, 50% bigger than any previous such project, and to the ruins of the eleven cities that had to be demolished to make its construction possible. In Bangladesh, we witness an area that's become the final resting place for old oil tankers, which are being scrubbed clean of oil by teenagers. The central theme of Manufactured Landscapes is that the things we've come to regard as indicative of progress and human advancement have created a huge dependence on the extraction of natural resources that undermines the health of our planet and consequently our own. Beinchwal's documentary doesn't need to lecture because the visual evidence is so compelling and, ironically, so beautiful.
"Manufactured Landscapes" Creates a Visual and Spiritual Med
David Crumm | Canton, Michigan | 02/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was deeply moved by Jennifer Baichwal's documentary on Edward Burtynsky's photography in China -- then was surprised to find the range of online reviews.

First, to think of this film as "about China" misses the point that Burtynsky and Baichwal make throughout the documentary about the close global interrelationships that are reshaping vast swaths of the Earth's surface. Yes, we visit enormous centers of e-recycling in which computer components are torn apart pretty much by hand in dangerous, depressing regions of China -- but the film makes the point that the e-waste is ours as Americans. Yes, we see the oil and energy industry disrupting the Chinese landscape like gargantuan hammers and swords -- but the film makes the point that these efforts are shaped by the worldwide thirst for oil and energy in the current era of manufacturing.

The film's point is that we are fundamentally interrelated. Also, its "slow" style is intended as meditative. I agree with the strategy. This film does not preach -- just as Burtynsky's photographs are noted for their refusal to overtly preach at us. Both filmmaker and photographer are inviting us to ponder these images -- sometimes stunningly beautiful and sometimes terrifying. Sometimes we find that the truth is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Sometimes the images seem as distant as Mars -- and sometimes they seem so close to home that they are stunning, for example, when we suddenly notice that a mountain of gray waste includes parts of a common household steam iron.

I come to this film as a journalist who has spent decades covering the impact of faith and spirituality on contemporary life. If you're familiar with films like "Into Great Silence," about monastic life, or even "The Undertaking," a PBS documentary on poet-essayist (and undertaker) Thomas Lynch -- then you know that this is a very creative era in which filmmakers are experimenting with new spiritual vocabularies.

I would recommend this film especially for discussion groups. There's a whole lot you'll be eager to discuss in this film -- especially if your group is able to watch some of the extras on the DVD as well."
Beautiful and terrifying, a documentary that could well be a
Jesse Kornbluth | New York | 01/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The camera is at the end of a long row of workers. It starts tracking to the next row, and the next, and the next. The camera operator's in no hurry, and as the rows continued, I became agitated. I wanted it to be over. To do something, anything, I began to count the rows. Seven minutes later --- this was surely the longest tracking shot in the history of film --- we were at the end of an enormous factory in China.

You want to see this movie --- you need to see this movie --- for many reasons, and scale is the first. We talk about global warming and environmental degradation and maybe we see a picture of an ice cap and a polar bear or a giant landfill, but we rarely see how big these things can be.

Edward Burtynsky is all about big.

He started, decades ago, by wondering what happened to the quarries that produced giant slabs of stone. What he found were excavated masterpieces --- inverted monuments, exactingly carved, extending hundreds of feet into the earth. In their way, they're gorgeous.

In the last few years, Burtynsky has moved on to China, an agrarian country transforming itself, at warp speed, into an industrial powerhouse. That means: a factory that produces 20 million flat-irons a year. The third largest aluminum recycling yard in the world. A dam so big --- the largest ever conceived, by 50% --- that 1.1 million people had to disassemble their homes and evacuate 13 villages so the thing could be built.

Many of these images show factories and apartments that are new and shiny, light years from what we think of as sweatshop workplaces and workers' housing. But don't be fooled. Much of the labor we see is so repetitive that none of us would last an hour. And a lot of the processes in these plants throw off waste in such volume that residents of the Pacific Northwest and Canada are its beneficiaries.

But don't jump to the conclusion that this is a film Al Gore could have made. Mass production is not without beauty --- the photographs of Andreas Gursky prove that by making us think twice about supermarkets and lobbies. But Gursky digitally manipulates his images. Burtynsky just sets up his 4x5 or 8x10 camera, takes an insane number of shots, edits ruthlessly, then prints on giant sheets of paper. What we see is what he got.

And what is that?

You look at this film --- at women putting caps on wires thirty times a minute, at people scrounging through mountains of discarded computers in search of tiny pieces of value, at gleaners harvesting scrap in a stream of chemical waste --- and you think you will never buy anything in Wal-Mart again. And that's just for openers. The computer you're using right now --- how much did you pay for it? How much would it cost if the people who labored over its components were Americans, in a union and paid a salary that reflected their expertise? And then consider the true cost of your microwave, your iPod, your flat screen, and....

But that way of thinking is too narrow; this time, it's not all about us. Burtynsky is fascinated with China because it's creating new "landscapes" on a scale that dwarfs all other nations --- in a matter of a decade, it's recreating the process of industrialization that took a century to transform America. In China, we can see our past, projected at warp speed. And in China, we can also see our future. China, China, China --- for the first time, you get what a vast impersonal force resides there, and how it works in silent, compliant efficiency, and the connection between anonymous workers and sophisticated consumers.

As Jennifer Baichwal follows Burtynsky around, she shows how he works and what he chooses to photograph, but not what he thinks. That's deliberate. Although Burtynsky should be a zealot --- his father, who worked in a GM factory, died young from a cancer allegedly caused by lubricating oil --- he takes no position on the environmental changes he photographs.

If he presents his work as a political statement, he says, it's a take it or leave it offering: You agree with him, or not. And on you go to the next exhibit, the next movie. His aim is to invite you to think about desire and repulsion, about your attraction to products and your fear of what lies beneath their shiny surfaces. After all, he points out, "We are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success."

Burtynsky's conclusion --- not shared in the documentary --- may come to be yours: ''I feel like I'm living in contradiction with myself. But I don't know any other alternative to how I live.... It's a dilemma of our times, in that there's no easy prescription for our ailment."

His solution, however tentative, is to "look at the world straight on, in a way that won't let us immediately turn our eyes away.'' Good thought. So don't just watch this movie. Share it with friends and family. And then pass it on. It's that important.