Saturday, 17 May 2008

Manufactured Landscapes - film review

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.


A wildlife gardener said...

It is hard for us in the west to see first- hand all that China is doing to modernise itself without feeling critical.

But we did exactly the same years ago..half of Scotland's forests were turned into James iv's ships...the Highland Clearances shipped hundreds of people off to America and stole their homes, their culture etc. We're still ruining our own countryside up and down the whole of Britain. We're still stealing natural habitats from our indigenous wildlife. We pollute our rivers, the sea; litter our beautiful countryside; graffiti our buildings; waste precious water.

We are not blameless. I think that's what I'm trying to say...and we have learned so many bad habits from America as well.
I think we need to take stock of our own failures.

I can't condone what China is doing...or how it is going about modernising but I have to look inward too.

Scot said...

I wonder just how much technology goes into landfills?

Crafty Green Poet said...

Wildlife Gardener - you're entirely right, we have made (and continue to make) huge mistakes in the west and in fact it is our demand for plastic products and our demand places to dispose of old ones that are helping to drive what is happening in China. I think a weakness of the film was its not addressing that aspect of the situation. In a general sense I would never say we in the UK are blameless and would entirely agree with the points you make.

Scot - I wonder that too, it must be massive amounts.

Janice Thomson said...

This really puts into perspective the massive damage humans have done to the earth in their endless quest for bigger and better technology.
Thought-provoking film and photography really packs a punch begging the question what can each of us do to lessen these horrific changes.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I agree Janice, it really does put things into perspective and makes people think

adrian2514 said...

Hey! Thanks for the info about Manufactored Landscapes. I really hope to see this powerful sounding film! I was browsing through a bunch of green websites and blogs and I came across yours and found it very interesting. There are a bunch of others I like too, like the daily green, ecorazzi and I especially like’s carbon calculator ( I find it really easy to use (it doesn’t make me feel guilty after I take it). Are there any others you would recommend? Can you drop me a link to your favorites (let me know if they are the same as mine).