Media Monday- Burtynsky’s Manufactured Landscapes

Movie ReviewsI recently picked up Manufactured Landscapes from our public library.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  The film looked like an artsy and interesting documentary.  So I grabbed it.   I was pleasantly surprised with what it turned out to be.

From the back of the DVD:

The film follows Internationally acclaimed photographer Edward Burtynsky whose large-scale photographs of manufactured landscapes quarries, recycling yards, factories, mines and dams create stunningly beautiful art from civilization s materials and debris. The film follows him through China, as he shoots the evidence and effects of that country s massive industrial revolution. Burtynsky s photographs allow us to meditate on our impact on the planet and witness both the epicenters of industrial endeavor and the dumping grounds of its waste.

If you know me at all, you’ll probably think it is strange that I found an essentially enviromental or activist film so compelling. Here’s the thing.  Labeling this film in this way would limit the scope of its impact.  This is a movie about humanity.  Does it have environmental or global implications?…Yes, of course.  But this film openned my eyes to a reality that is unseen by most of us.

Manufactured Landscapes DVDThe opening of the movie is a slow moving camera shot through a manufacturing facility.  The building seems so endless that it feels a little uncomfortable.  What was so striking to me while watching was how quiet the factory was.  There were the sounds of machinery and an occasional supervisor…but there was no blaring oldies station, no ruckus of factory workers…it was thousands of people quietly doing their work.  Throughout the film you get to see more clips of what some of these workers were doing on this assembly line. Again these are uncomfortably quiet as you see the mundane nature of their tasks.

The film goes on the explore many aspects of the industrial revolution that is in full force in China.  The scenes are breathtaking.  The scenes are disturbing.  Some of the most poignant are the shots of whole cities being torn down brick by brick by their own inhabitants in order to make way for a dam and reservoir that will engulf the region in water.  The dam (Three Gorges Dam) is the largest civil engineering project in the world.  All of the destruction and relocation of millions is to serve the advancement of the society and its need for electric power.

In short, what you will see in this film makes you think.

What is the impact that sin is having on the world?  Where can we see society at odds with its creator?  Watching the scenes and hearing some of the stories in Manufactured Landscapes reveals that what is subtle in our western culture (the need to dominate and advance) is not so subtle when it drives the Billions of people and their government in China.  What we see exposed, exposes us.  This should challenge us to live in reality…not simply to let the clouds around us become reality.

We could easily view this film and respond with a distant, “Wow…That’s really bad.”  This was my initial response.  Since viewing the film, I have been wrestling with what my response moving forward should be.  What impact will this new information, this new perspective, have on life as we know it?

Any suggestions?

I would recommend finding this at your local library and viewing it as a family.  It could be a great springboard into some challenging and important discussions.

Here is a trailer that I found on YouTube:


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