This transfixing documentary has an odd construction.
It's ostensibly about the meticulously composed panoramic photographs that Edward Burtynsky takes of the world's landscapes as industrialization changes the rural to urban and the unspoiled to the despoiled. But as director Jennifer Baichwal artfully moves from all-encompassing close-ups of the photographs to the actual places where Burtynsky shot, primarily in China but also in Bangladesh, it becomes clear she's most concerned about how globalization is changing the "the family of man." And not always for the better, if the lives of the kids who salvage old cargo ships on Bangladesh's polluted shore are any indication. Peter Mettle's cinematography is astounding -- the opening tracking shot inside an endlessly unfolding Chinese factory has a cosmic impact, humbling the viewer with recognitions of his/her own smallness in comparison to the size of construction/manufacturing projects in the world. It's also an awakening for an American -- especially those in the Rust Belt -- who, surrounded by their own abandoned and crumbling factories, believe the Age of Industrialization is over. No, it's just moved to Asia. For better or worse. This film deserves pairing with Koyaanisqatsi. (SR) Grade: B+
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