The documentary film Manufactured Landscapes by Jennifer Baichwal highlights the expansion of human technology and the industry with the effects it has on the natural world. The film was released in 2006 by Zeitgeist Films. It does so by following the photographer Edward Burtynsky and documenting his work. There are many shots of Burtynsky taking the actual photographs, complimented by the actual still photographs captured on Super-16mm film. His photos are of landscapes that have been drastically changed due to human waste and advancements, such as garbage dumps, old ship yards, and factories. The film is very observational because the subject is the landscapes but also Burtynsky. While people are asked to be moved and such throughout the film, it is Burtynsky who asks, and Baichwal merely captures the result on camera. It also has tones of an expository documentary, but it has limited voice- over, trying to show the audience rather than tell. It also leaves a very vague intention and feeling of what to do next.
The film is structured around the journey of Burtynsky through China to various locations, where he is shown taking photographs. The film often transitions by showing a photo and zooming out to illustrate the scale of the prints. It also enables the viewer to see how Burtynsky saw his subject and how the photo turned out. His photos are usually quite detailed and do show how the world has become very industrialized. The biggest strength of the film is the long opening shot of the factory workers. The slow, tracking shot amazes the viewer with the
length of the factory. Except for this shot though, there weren’t any other shots that stood out. It was an average documentary in terms of how it was filmed. Due to less than interesting film techniques, it seemed to drag on much longer than the runtime of 1:30 would usually seem. Other weaknesses include the fact that it is barely informative; I could’ve learned more from reading a few articles and looking at photos or videos than watching this film. It seemed more of an advertisement for Burtynsky than anything else. When discussing Damnation, people thought that it was very sponsored and had shots that were there for advertising. The difference is that I think Damnation presented a problem and conveyed information, as well as how we can correct the mistakes. Manufactured Landscapes just showed a photographer taking photos about a problem many people already know about. It also didn’t even give advice on how to stop polluting the earth.
I personally believe that this film was the weakest one we have viewed so far, even more so than An Inconvenient Truth. I was against that film because it was essentially all data, however, Manufactured Landscapes did nothing for me. As I said before it seemed like a 1:30 advertisement for Burtynsky because it only showed these landscapes, and not the solution or steps we can take for improvement. It is opened ended, which can lead to discussion and more involvement by just showing the problem, but I thought it was a pointless film that didn’t even inform me of the ever growing manufactured landscapes.