Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Manufactured Landscapes

Manufactured Landscapes "Manufactured Landscapes" (Canada 2006, 90 min.) is an interesting yet unsatisfying documentary. It opens in Bay area theatres on July 20.

The film follows a renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky to China. Mr. Burtynsky wants to capture the unprecedented industrial revolution in China with his camera, in a way that we might never see before. Through his lenses, he wants the viewers to observe and try to comprehend the impact of urbanization and industrialization to the nature, to the people, and to the society.

The film opens with an eight minute long(!) shot going down an endless aisle in a gigantic factory warehouse in China. I bet our San Francisco buses would have had at least three stops already if they were running down inside that warehouse.

It's simply stunning.

Although the film tries not to pass on any judgment on the industrial revolution in China, as well as in the world, it makes us to think about what we are doing to the world at large, not only to China. We see the enormous amount of e-waste dumped in China, the massive coal mines, the abandoned cargo ship, the smoggy air, the 2309 meter (1.435 miles) long Three Gorges Dam (长江三峡大坝), and the war-zone-alike cities which will be submerged under the reservoir.

Unfortunately, the film loses its focus when it juggles between the photographer Burtynsky and the industrial world Mr. Burtynsky is trying to unveil. It turns out that we don't get to know either subjects in depth. I never know that old man's story who works at the dam for 20 RMB (about $3) a day; nor the woman's life who assembles about 400 circuit breakers a day as fast as this Asian kid playing Rubik's cube; nor Mr. Burtynsky himself.

However, after the film, I will never see a "Made in China" label the same way ever again. I begin to see those faces of young Chinese workers, and the endless factories.

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