Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Movie Week 'Manufactured Landscapes' Review

'Manufacted Landscapes' opens with a drawn out tracking shot showing row upon row of factory workers as they hand create small domestic appliances. These factory workers don't appear to have a choice or voice. They seem to exist to create products for consumption; a stark contrast to the privledged few that were shown living in Western-style homes amidst their manicured gardens. Did these elite look beyond their artifical etopia and see the ravished environment that surrounded them? Did they see the waste residue after factories finished churning out chemical-laced consumer produces and electronic waste? Did any of them care that there is no place to dispose of this waste without permeating the earth, water and air? This movie makes me think "do I really need to purchase that next electronic gizmo"?

We are then led through North American strip mines, where natural resources are taken to be exported to China to be turned into manufactured products, most with electronic components.

Our consumer-driven society dutifully recycles, only to have the majority of e-waste make its way back onto freighters, shipped back to China or other less-developed countries for final dismantling and reusing of materials. Much of this process is done by hand, exposing the handlers to toxic levels of chemicals.

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsk really hit the mark by creating such compositionally masterful images of mountains of e-waste and consumer waste. He would never have been allowed to leave China with such footage if the powers that be had been given any idea what the end-product message might be. All they saw were beautiful images. They missed the message. We cannot afford to do the same ... Our raw resources are used to create these products. These products show up on our store shelves; we buy, consume and recycle them. Alot of what we recycle is shipped back overseas to be dismantled for re-consumption production. What are the long-term global effects of this production and consumption merry-go-round?

Movie Week 'I am Cuba' Review

I initially selected another movie, discounting this 1964 Russian-Cuban documentary coproduction because of its length and subtitles. I then changed my mind, because, if it caught the attention of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorses, it must be good. I was not diappointed!

The movie leads the viewer through a series of vignettes that portray Cuba, beginning in Havana during the pre-revolution era under dictator Batista and ending with the revolution led by Castro. The opening scene includes underwater rooftop swimming pool shots when waterproof cameras were unheard of. A watertight box had to be constructed for the scene.

'I am Cuba' is made up of amazing cinematography. Trust the Russians, specialized infrared film that was produced for spy missions, was used with a handheld Eclair moving camera. The results were some incredible high contrast shots, especially the outdoor sugar cane field scenes and the mountain hillside scenes during the bombing attacks. One of my favorite shots is the crane-shot sequence looking down onto the streets during the funeral procession. The shots are incredible! The nightclub sex trade exploitation vignette, the landowners exploiting of the peasants sugar cane crop scene, and the death squad brutality during the university-based revolutionary fights all portrayed a countries journey from a dictatorship regime to a more egalitarian communist society.

I found that time passed quickly while I watched this movie, I left feeling somewhat enlightened with a new understanding and empathy towards the Cuban people. 'I am Cuba' reminded me of a friend's circumstance as they lived through a similar revolution in Chile. Why is it that democracy comes at the cost of its citizens blood?

Movie Week 'Born into Brothels' Review

I selected 'Born into Brothels' based upon the posted description; I was not disappointed. I thought Photographer Zana Briski accomplished an amazing feat by managing to intergrade herself into the Calcutta Red Light district slums and gain the trust of both the children and their parents, enough to carry out her goal of providing a group of children with the training and opportunity to record and express their world through the lenses of a camera.

The children exhibited a resilient strength that allowed them to cope in such adverse conditions. It was a joy to watch them discover simple pleasures such as a ride in a cab or a day at the ocean ... worlds apart from their stark reality. Zana was an amazing advocate as she jumped bureacratic hoops to obtain medical reports, government paperwork and convince private schools in India to admit children of sex trade workers. She promoted their photography, which in turn provided the funds needed to cover the children's educational expenses. While some of the children returned to their homes, and one presumes, becoming active participants in the sex trade, there were a few that transcended their birth circumstance, remaining in school and moving beyond.

This photographer made a difference! The same way I want to make a difference in the future, using Therapeutic Photography.