Monday, April 14, 2014

"Watermark" (directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky) is a visual spectacle like "Manufactured Landscapes"


Watermark” (directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky) perhaps should have been an Imax film.  There is relatively little verbal narration, and the stunning scenery tells the story of how man is dependent on water and is changing the planet to dangerous levels.  But the film also points out that Earth has had a lot of ice ages and snowball periods, and in the grand scheme of things, mankind’s tenure on a warming Earth has been very brief indeed.

The film opens in the high plains of west Texas with discussion of the Ogallala Aquifer, which has about nine Lake Erie’s worth of water, of which we have already consumed a third.  The film explains how Los Angeles got its aqueduct and water supply at the expense of rural communities like Lone Pine. 
  
But the most fascinating scenes are overseas, especially in China.  Not only is the dam project overwhelming, but the fishing complex, spread out over square miles in a kind of floating shantytown the size of many Venices, is something I’ve never seen, as is the seafood – lots of mollusks eaten with chopsticks, no “free fish” here.  Likewise overpowering is the leather tanning factory in Bangladesh with the squalor it leaves, and the ritual washing of millions of people in the Ganges in India. 
  
There is a sequence in northern British Columbia, with a scenic river gorge ending the film, but also a dry landscape looking like Mars. 
  
  
There is also an Oceanside development in southern California that rather looks like the Palm Islands in Dubai, which strike me as a bizarre place to live.  What happens if the sea level rises?
  
The official site is here

I saw the film at Landmark E Street in Washington DC, before a small Monday evening gathering .

Wikipedia attribution link for Dubai’s “Universe”

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