Austin Film Society Documentary Tour

'Manufactured Landscapes'

Canadian director Jennifer Baichwal (Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles and The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia) has made a film about the celebrated Canadian still-photographer Edward Burtynsky and the singular niche he's staked out: documenting the striking, if paradoxical, aesthetic to be found in the detritus of huge industrial landscapes. Shot extensively in China and some in Bangladesh, Burtynsky's canvases are large-format scenes of these "manufactured landscapes," which he describes as "industrial incursions," byproducts of globalization and the out-of-control activities of red-hot economies like those in many Asian countries today. The slag heaps created by massive coal and copper strip-mining operations, the enormous recycling dumps (China being the final resting place for 50% of the world's computers), the huge rock quarries and factories. He documents the making of the largest dam ever built by man, the Three Gorges Dam, a 600-kilometer reservoir on the former site of 13 cities that have been razed and relocated for this project. In his works, the photographer makes no editorial comments; it's up to the viewer to respond and articulate.

While humans figure only marginally, if at all, in Burtynsky's compositions – their overwhelming presence and influence emanate from beyond the frame's four corners – filmmaker Baichwal brings the human capital component into her film, making explicit this unspoken dimension of Burtynsky's work. The opening scene of the film is an eight-minute-long tracking shot from one end of a 480-meter-long Chinese factory floor to the other, where, during an interminably long scene, we survey row after row of yellow-jacketed factory workers. Later, the camera will linger on the repetitive, brain-numbing, hands-on assembly work that these Chinese factory workers do, day after day. Makes you look twice, as an end-user of all those everyday technologies.

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 7pm

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Screens Reviews
SXSW Film Reviews: 'TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

Richard Whittaker, March 15, 2013

SXSW Film Reviews: 'We Cause Scenes'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 15, 2013

More by Anne S. Lewis
Eugene Mirman Gets Intimate in <i>It Started as a Joke</i>
Eugene Mirman Gets Intimate in It Started as a Joke
Documenting the 10-year run of an underground comedy revolution

March 8, 2019

With a History Like That …
With a History Like That …
The Austin Polish Film Festival delves into the country’s complicated past

Nov. 3, 2017


Austin Film Society Documentary Tour, Manufactured Landscapes, Jennifer Baichwal

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle