Directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky
Seven years ago, director Jennifer Baichwal stunned audiences with her brilliant documentary, MANUFACTURING OBJECTS. Now she reteams with photographer, Edward Burtynsky, to bring us WATERMARK. A question proposed in the film actually sums up what it is about perfectly. How does water shape us and how do we shape water? The real question though is whether or not Baichwal answers her own question well.
WATERMARK opens with a woman standing on groud that looks almost extraterrestrial, explaining how water used to roam freely where she stands. Then, the film cuts to a flowing water system. It goes back and forth like this again and again, showing us places where water has dried up, and places where water is used today. There are interesting sequences, like the one that shows the use of water for processing leather. A man working at a leather factory describes how thousands of gallons of water are used every day, along with detergent to wash the leather. We then see the used water, turned blue with detergent, flowing back into a lake. Then the film cuts to men, woman and children washing themselves in this same lake. This scene is one of the most captivating, and certainly one of the most disturbing, but unfortunately there are not enough scenes like this one in the film.
Obviously, WATERMARK’s greatest strength is its beautiful photography, but this is not enough to carry the entire film. The audience will understand what Baichwal is trying say early on, leaving them nothing else to do for the remainder of the film, than to simply just enjoy the striking imagery. It also doesn’t help much that there are scenes blatantly inserted for no other reason than to advertise Burtynsky’s upcoming book. Ultimately, WATERMARK is visually pleasing, but at times the viewer will be wanting more than just a pretty picture.
How many sheep would you give Watermark?