Watermark Review

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

Humans are 70% water and completely dependent upon water for our survival as is life on this planet. No wonder water rituals are as ancient as the human race. Watermark had its World Premiere at TIFF13. It is a breathtaking, beautiful panoramic journey, an artistic visual essay across several continents weaving the tale of man’s interconnectivity with water. This remarkable work from acclaimed co-directors landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal with cinematographer Nick de Pencier, sweeps the viewer from the pristine landscape of the Stikine watershed in Northern BC, down the river course, across the remote mountain ranges and boreal forest to landscapes far more altered and distant as China.

Jennifer Baishwal’s work as a filmmaker took hold when she realized from her thesis work at McGill University that her philosophical views demanded a bigger canvas. Her documentary Manufactured Landscapes (2006) received critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and marked the first collaborative work between Baishwal and Burtynsky. At the outset of the collaboration, Burtynsky originally hoped Baishwal could simply edit together existing black and white footage compiled from a trip to China. But Baishwal quickly realized that the footage needed to be reshot. She and Burtynsky visited China’s iron factories, recording the stunning tracking shot of a workplace with 23,000 Chinese that would open Manufactured Landscapes. China’s Three Gorges Dam the largest in the world is another main feature of this film and Watermark. The creation of that project begun in 1994 displaced more than one million people, obliterated 13 cities, 140 towns and 1350 villages.

Watermark focuses on the conflicting theme of mankind’s reliance on water and our ability to completely alter the face of the earth in its pursuit and management. The movie is not meant to pass judgment but rather to arouse curiosity. It is remarkable to see the abalone farms in the China Sea, which stretch for acres, carefully strung one to the other. The camera sweeps down the ancient step wells of India where getting water was once a pilgrimage, but which today, are dry. The lens of the camera mingles with a multitude people who represent the 400 million who live in the Ganges delta dependent on the great mother river; swings to the exuberant, massive water fountains of the Bellagio Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, once a desert. ‘Blue Gold’ is the new oxymoron for water we carelessly contaminate, corrupt and exploit but the film never speaks these words or passes such a judgment, leaving room for the viewer to form an opinion of their own.

Edward Burtynsky is a celebrated and successful landscape photographer publishing major work since 1983. He is a recipient of the 2005 Ted Talks Award, founder and board member of Toronto Image Works since 1985, previous chair of the board of directors Architecture for Humanity online sustainability magazine, contributor to the Clock of the Long Now project. His work is on display at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario along side Ansel Adams, one of his original sources of inspiration.

Watermark is a film of extraordinary beauty and revelations about how water sustains nourishes our lives and yet despite this importance, it remains surprisingly under great threat. The film is the third part of Burtynsky’s “Water” project, which includes his book Burtynsky: Water and major photographic exhibitions, currently at Toronto’s Nicholas Metivier Gallery. Vancouver’s Capture Photography Festival will display five billboards of Burtynsky photographs from October 1 to November 15.

Moira Romano

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