Release Date: June 20th, 2007 (Film Forum) by Zeitgeist Films.
Directed by Jennifer Baichwal.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the photos of industrial landscapes by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Anyone who watched Manufactured Landscapes will easily compare it to director Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaaniqatsi without the haunting musical score by Phillip Glass and with a slower pace. The opening tracking shot, which lasts at least five minutes shows many workers in the huge interior of a factory in China, sets the tone for the rest of the film. One of Edward Burtynsky’s photos display these workers gathered by the side of a road outside of the factory with a hazy blur in the distance, most likely caused by air pollution. Other photographs also include disturbing images which show industries drastically changing the environment—i.e. the building of the Three Gorges Dam and a river in Canada tainted by chemicals which color it blood red. Not surprisingly, you’ll rarely see any green in Burtynsky’s photographs. There’s some footage from the interior of other factories, such as workers rapidly assembling a product part as if they were a robot. Even scenes in their cafeteria seem mundane. Director Jennifer Baichwal does a great job of selecting and filming fascinating visuals with very little narration or preaching. She lets the images and footages speak for themselves, which, admittedly, feels demanding, redundant and draining for the viewer. It would have been more compelling to include more personal interviews with the factory workers, managers or, most importantly, Edward Burtynsky. Ultimately, Manufactured Landscapes feels somewhat as mundane and cold as its visuals.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Through technology and industrialization, mankind has destroyed nature in a way that makes it look ugly and mundane. There seem to be virtually no moments when the factory workers can actually have “human moments” and feel alive. Nowadays, people tend to be attached to material things (i.e. computers) as though it means the world to them. Concurrently, it’s easy for them to feel alienated, lonely, sad and neglected, much like how Enid felt in Ghost World, especially as she slowly walked past those all those stores with technology and industry all around her at the very end of the film. We’re basically changing the look and feel of our environment, which, in turn, threatens to dehumanize us, whether or not we choose to admit it.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Occasionally redundant and not enough interviews.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 2
IN A NUTSHELL: Fascinating and disturbing, but occasionally redundant, mundane and not enough interviews.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD
The "M" Menu