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

Admission: www.austinfilm.org

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Film Society Documentary Tour, Manufactured Landscapes, Jennifer Baichwal

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