Beginning with a bravura eight-minute lateral tracking shot through a giant Chinese factory, Canadian director Jennifer Baichwal’s thoughtful documentary explores the work of the photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose large-scale colour photos examine the physical and environmental impact of man’s industrial processes upon landscapes around the world. Baichwal and her cinematographer Peter Mettler follow Burtynsky on one of his trips to Asia where visits the monumental Three Gorges Dam project in China, the setting for Jia Zhang Ke’s Still Life, for which two million people will be relocated in order to form a reservoir some 600-km long.
He also photographs the mountains of ‘e-waste’, which have been imported from other countries for recycling, and the ship-breaking yards at Chittagong in Bangladesh, where teenagers remove by hand any oil left in the derelict tankers, which are to be dismantled. Manufactured Landscapes offers a wider context to Burtynsky’s panoramic phonographs: we watch the artist negotiating with locals and staging his compositions, and Baichwal also attempts to interview workers who would otherwise remain anonymous figures in the frame. And like the recently released Our Daily Bread, this is a film which encourages the viewer to gaze at its images, and feel unsettled by its eerie beauty.
Cameo, Edinburgh and selected release from Fri 9 May.