Jennifer Baichwal’s award-winning documentary shows us the mountains of ‘e-waste’ in China (where 50 per cent of the world’s computers end up to be recycled), the monotonous bleakness of the daily lives of factory workers, the Yangzte Valley, where whole towns are being demolished to make way for the Three Gorges Dam, vast coal mines and other ‘manufactured landscapes’. The focus is the work of renowned Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky, whose epic photographs portray ‘the landscape that we change – that we disrupt – in pursuit of progress.’ The artist is filmed at work amid some of the most surreal landscapes of the 21st century. The minimal commentary and slow, lingering pace leave maximum room for reflection on the deep-seated problems created by consumer culture.
Manufactured Landscapes directed by Jennifer Baichwal
From 9 May 2008 (BFI Southbank, The Gate, Ritzy Picturehouse), other venues tbc
This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2008