Toronto-based filmmaker Mettler, who was a creative collaborator as well as cinematographer on Manufactured Landscapes, will discuss the making of the film and his approach to the visual language of cinema. Mettler is also our guest for this season’s Afterimage series.
A quietly provocative consideration of the mechanized sublime, Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary follows Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky as he travels through China and Bangladesh recording large-scale industrial incursions into the landscape. Opening with a stunning eight-minute tracking shot that traverses a vast Chinese factory floor full of color-coordinated workers, Peter Mettler’s acute cinematography both mimics the formal beauty of Burtynsky’s acclaimed images and considers his subjects—manufacturing sites, shipbreaking yards, e-waste dumps—from a subtly different perspective. “It’s a very broad view,” comments a resident of a town being dismantled to make way for the Three Gorges Dam, given one of Burtynsky’s Polaroids. “It’s hard to see the details.” Baichwal and Mettler move in for a closer view, hinting at the individual human presence in these devastated landscapes and suggesting some inconvenient questions—not only about the impact of global industry on places and people, but also about where aesthetics end and ethics begin.