Watermark ***Dir: Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky. 92 mins. Cert: U
Documentarist Jennifer Baichwal first collaborated with photographer Edward Burtynsky on 2006’s stunning Manufactured Landscapes, which illustrated the visual impact of industrialisation on the Earth’s surface. Here, they’ve turned their attentions to the myriad ways water shapes our landscape, and is shaped in turn by man. We approach fountains, stepwells and hydroelectric dams from a helicopter-enabled H2O-verview that is sometimes purely thrilling – pulling up from within touching distance of the waves to reveal the sprawl of a Chinese seaweed farm – but most often critical, each fly-by offering pointed observations on what we’re doing with our most precious resource. Cutting between parched mosaics of Mexican soil and California’s artificially maintained greenery makes a subtle point; if water is, as so much dystopian sci-fi predicts, one faultline along which society may yet rupture, then the cracks are already much in evidence. It’s not quite as focused as its predecessor, but its best sequences rehydrate the mind.
Watermark is now playing in selected cinemas.