Several weeks ago London was once more graced with a screening of an award winning documentary by Jennifer Baichwal that focuses on the astonishing body of work from the acclaimed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. The film was followed by Q&A session led by Francis Hodgson (critic and writer on photography for the Financial Times).

The screening took place at London’s temple of contemporary art, as well knows as Tate Modern past the gallery’ opening hours. So after overcoming three levels of some feisty security who (for some elusive reason) weren’t clearly notified about the event, me and my photojournalist companion finally made it to the small and intimate Starr Auditorium. Refreshments and drinks were still being served, which made for a good start. However what was truly shining is the crowd. Writers, critics, photographers,  art professors of London’s top universities and intellectuals of all sorts were promising for a stimulating evening.

To begin, Edward Burtynsky is an exceptionally talented artist whose large-scale photographs present the devastating impact of industrial growth on the environment. Having to put this in a less mannered way, they create an awareness of where our comfort living is coming from and at what particular costs. However, as much as Burtynsky’ photographs are about environmental, social and political dimensions of globalisation, they are also about striking visual aesthetics. His images represent nothing less than a sublime beauty of a photographic medium and this is how people like to refer to Burtynsky’s work.

The film opens with a side-tracking shot of Chinese factory and goes on for what seems like forever. The never-ending scene shows workers who are all dressed the same, all sitting in the same position, all mechanically carrying out their duties. It is almost disturbing to think that those are humans, not machines. From the very start Baichwal and Burtynsky direct the audience to the summary of the whole film – the unstoppable process of disrupting the natural order and the occurrence of an intentional one which we, humans, do not create, but indeed manufacture.

Throughout the rest of the film we follow Edward Butrynsky as he travels across the world documenting the severest areas of industrialisation. Among those we get to see the world’s largest dam in China, the ship breaking grounds in Bangladesh, the architectural expansions of Shanghai and oil factories in United States. Above that, Burtynsky never forgets to focus on people who take part in those grand projects and expansions. As for the stylistic approach of the documentary – film continually breaks up with still photographs those give the viewers a chance to dwell upon the details of the image and challenges them to discover an alternative way of looking at the world.

Saying all that… I must mention that in spite of raising political and social issues I could not help it realise how incredibly apolitical that film and Burtynsky’s work in truth are. Perhaps that was the finest trade of what I saw. Looking at the images of constructions, destructions, destructions for the sake of constructions I did not detect any agitations or struggles against the system. Is this effect achieved by that wonderful sense of aesthetic, that sublime beauty of Burtynsky’s work that I mentioned earlier? I am not too sure. Perhaps, it could also be due to the fact  that the photographer simply strives to enjoy his work without feeling the need to take sides or scatter the blame. As Burtynsky himself explains “there’s no right or wrong in the situation that we have created, but what it needs is the whole new way of thinking.”

All in all, Edward Burtynsky: Manufactured Landscapes holds your breath from the first to the last second. Through your eyes the images sink into your brain, then making their way right to your heart targeting everything in the equal measure. What an incredible occasions in art and culture where one can find that perfect balance and accessibility in appreciation.


Couple of weeks ago the world saw the release of the first trailer for Keira Knightley‘s latest period film in which she takes a role of Leo Tolstoy‘s most renowned and troubled heroine, Anna KareninaThe film is directed by Joe Wright (AtonementPride & Prejudice). As for the rest of the leading cast, we have Jude Law as cuckold Alexei Karenin, Aaron Johnson as charming seducer Court Vronsky and Matthew Macfadyen as Anna‘s brother Oblonsky.

To be frank, it happens to be quite hard to evaluate foreign attempts to personate Russian characters. My Russian origins often lead me to the situations where my judgment focus suddenly gets all hazy.  That is why I wanted to skip on voicing my initial thoughts before I actually saw the full-length movie. Yet, as you can see I finally decided otherwise. Pushing ruthlessness and patriotism aside I promise to be as fair as I can allow myself to be.

Keira’s substantial experience in period cinema makes me want to believe she did well in giving justice to the complex character of Anna Karenina. However, it is also safe to acknowledge that this is, no doubt, the most ambitious part of her career. On top of everything, we are talking about one of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces. In this situation you can never be skeptical enough, can you?

Two and a half minutes of the snippet show that this time Joe Wright has taken exceedingly theatrical approach in visualisation of the novel. Decorative settings of Russian architecture of the 18th and 19th centuries, fancy ball-rooms, theatre stages and of course rich looking costumes so far appear so refined and glamorous. I can almost catch an aesthetic inspired by Baz Luhrmann‘s Moulin Rouge. This on its own can be an exciting and at the same time extremely dangerous prospect. Can anyone beat Luhrmann at his own game? Is theatrical allure and decorative vision of Tolstoy exactly what I should be expecting from the film? Here comes the alarming moment when I stumble into feeling “pessimistic in advance”.

Well let’s not be hasty. Full and elaborate review will have to wait until the film hits the screens in autumn this year. The world premier of the movie will take place in London on the 7th of September.