Manufactured Landscapes

Zeitgeist Films. <i>86 minutes</i>.


Debris is the true protagonist of this film: staggering amounts of waste that, when captured in just the right light, look more like art than trash. It’s only fitting that waste gets its star turn in a film about Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer acclaimed for his mesmerizingly beautiful images of quarries, mines, factories, junkyards, and other scenes of man-made sprawl.

Manufactured Landscapes follows Burtynsky as he tours China documenting the effects of its industrial revolution, from leaking oil rigs and mountains of discarded computer screens to villagers leveling their own homes to make way for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest. The film’s cinematography closely echoes the scale and detail of Burtynsky’s still images; one of its most impressive moments is a seemingly endless, eye-level tracking shot of an enormous factory where thousands of workers toil away building electronics.

Unfortunately, it’s unclear what really makes Burtynsky, a self-described “subliminal environmentalist,” tick. The artist feels removed here, as if the filmmakers didn’t want to disturb his Important Work. Yet the film’s remarkable images still provide a stunning commentary on the global economy’s consumption of raw materials­—notably human beings.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.