Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes took in over $20,000 this past weekend at Toronto’s Varsity, where it opened September 29. It was number one at the theatre, grossing three times as much as the second ranking film. This comes on the heels of two festival awards: Best Canadian Feature at 2006 Toronto, and Best Canadian Documentary at 2006 Atlantic.
“Canadians are passionate about the issues around environmental damage and how those issues affect their lives – not just in Canada but around the world. The success of this film shows that they are responding to this passion, and that they want to make a difference,” says Tom Alexander, director of theatrical releasing for Canadian distributor Mongrel Media.
This compelling documentary looks at the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, internationally acclaimed for his large-scale photographs of nature transformed by industry. His work is often called “beautiful” – yet it raises questions about ethics and aesthetics. What are we humans doing to our planet?
The film follows Edward Burtynsky to China, where he captures the effects of the country’s massive industrial revolution, as China moves from an agrarian to urban society. Subjects range from coalmines, to shipyards, to scrap heaps to recycling sites, many so filled with toxins they can be whiffed from afar. The Three Gorges Dam, 50 % larger than any dam in the world, has displaced over one million people. Shanghai, the fastest growing city in the world, has replaced its traditional dwellings with thousands of high rises.
Contrasting with Burtynsky’s epic photographs is the tedium endured by human cogs who spend their days assembling, recycling and rebuilding. One factory worker says she can put together 400 breaker units a day without overtime.
Cinematography is by Peter Mettler, with a mesmerizing opening scene – a dolly shot of a factory interior that stretches a kilometre long. The film marks the third feature documentary by Victoria-born, Montreal-educated, Toronto-based director Jennifer Baichwal, following her acclaimed Let it Come Down:
the Life of Paul Bowles and The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia. The film is produced by Mercury Films (Nick de Pencier, Jennifer Baichwal) and Foundry Films (Daniel Iron), in co-production with the NFB. The film is in English and Mandarin with English subtitles.