This perversely beautiful, disturbing documentary takes us into the heart of China, where a historical manufacturing boom is underway — one that is not only transforming life and micro-mechanizing work in the East, but wreaking irreversible and even catastrophic changes to the earth itself. Trailing eco-conscious Canadian art photographer Edward Burtynsky, Baichwal takes us from factories to ship-breaking yards, the Three Gorges Dam to the high-rise skyline of Shanghai, for an intimate look at this unprecedented epoch.
Ostensibly a portrait of Burtynsky, who has traveled the world snapping large-format pics of the largest incursions into our natural environment, this thought-provoking exposé of planetary pillaging is half travelogue, half quietly rageful activist screed. Watching armies of identically clad workers file in line for a morning pep rally, one gets the sense that we are witnessing something devastating — and Baichwal shows us how our thirst for cheap products and labor connect us to this dehumanizing ritual. Simply put, this is a mind-blowing film.