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Jennifer Baichwal's cameras follow Edward Burtynsky (1955- ) as he visits what he calls manufactured landscapes: slag heaps, e-waste dumps, huge factories in the Fujian and Zhejiang provinces of China, and a place in Bangladesh where ships are taken apart for recycling. In China, workers gather outside the factory, exhorted by their team leader to produce more and make fewer errors. A woman assembles a circuit breaker, and women and children are seen picking through debris or playing in it. Burtynsky concludes with a visit to Shanghai, the world's fastest growing city, where wealth and poverty, high-rises and old neighborhoods are side by side. Written by
I have been an admirer of Edward Burtynsky's work for years, and it was such a pleasure to be able to see the man at work, thanks to Jennifer Baichwal's documentary. The severe beauty of the ship-breaking yard in Bangladesh, the stone quarry in Vermont, the enormous assembly plant in China, the beleaguered old neighbourhoods in Shanghai that are just waiting to be torn down: these landscapes are captured so well by the photographer and the filmmaker.
At times I thought of old TV documentaries on abandoned coal mines and plastic-mold factories; the sort of stuff I grew up watching. Burtynsky's work has the great value of pointing out how the industrial activity has only shifted to Asia, it has not stopped. The strangest scene for me was the computer scrap-yard somewhere in China--the waste had a threatening air about it, while the workers were very jovial.
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