Edward Burtynsky is internationally acclaimed for his large-scale photographs of landscapes transformed by industry. Manufactured Landscapes – an award winning documentary by director Jennifer Baichwal – follows Burtynsky to China, where he captures the effects of the country’s massive industrial revolution and to Bangladesh where he documents the work of ship breakers on a beach. There is a strange beauty in some of the photos of piles of waste materials or derelict landscapes and the sheer scale of things is overwhelming. More than anything though the film gives the viewer a sense of the alienation of modern life. Around a million people lost their homes to make way for the Three Gorges dam and were paid to dismantle their own homes. Large numbers of computers from around the world are sent to China to be recycled by people who mostly have no protective clothing, in villages that now are so polluted that they can be smelt from five miles away*. This is a very sobering film that really makes the viewer think about industrialisation and globalisation. It is showing in selected cinemas in the UK.
*Recycling computers is a good thing, if done locally in an environmentally friendly way. In the UK there are a number of companies that refurbish computers and donate them to community groups that need them. For a list of these companies see here.