Watermark – Directors, Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky

This is the second film in which these two have collaborated. Burtynsky is quite rightly identified as a great photographer and he is Canadian as well. Their previous collaboration was Manufactured Landscapes which deservedly won several awards including cleaning up at TIFF 2006 with Best Documentary and Best Canadian Film. This second effort has a chance to do the same. It spectacular to look at but… I have to say not very well written. The purpose of the film is to show us how closely we are tied to water. We are of course mostly water, water plays a huge cultural role in our lives, we use and abuse it in manufacturing, to create power, entertainment and of course we depend on it for agriculture. We couldn’t live much more than two days without it. All this is beautifully and powerfully illustrated by Burtynsky’s amazing photography but why they made the film is simply never clear. I think they may have meant to tell us that we are wasting and destroying our water resources by poor agricultural uses, trying to keep cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas going when they have no natural source of water to sustain themselves, by poisoning the water, by damming it up and so forth but they never really make it very clear. Still this movie is incredibly beautiful to watch (although it is about 20-30 minutes too long – and the sequence of the traditional washing away of sins in the Ganges I thought would never end). Nonetheless I do recommend it for looks alone but have your wand handy to fast forward when needed. Manufactured Landscapes is also definitely worth watching if you have never seen it and Burtynsky has a display of his photographs at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg until September 29th. Also something not to be missed.

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