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Year: 2013
Language: English, Spanish, Hindi, Bengali, Mandarin
Format: DCP/Colour and Black and White
Runtime: 90 min

Following their triumph with Manufactured Landscapes, photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal reunite to explore the ways in which humanity has shaped, manipulated and depleted one of its most vital and compromised resources: water.

A film of astonishing beauty and perspective, Watermark reunites award-winning documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal with acclaimed environmental photographer Edward Burtynsky. While Manufactured Landscapes, their last project together, examined large-scale industrial terrain, Watermark follows Burtynsky's global photographic exploration of our most vital and compromised resource: water.

Transporting us all over the world, Watermark reveals the extent to which humanity has shaped water, and how it has shaped us. In California, the vast, manmade All-American Canal diverts water from the Colorado River to urban centres. In India, the mass Hindu pilgrimage called the Kumbh Mela sees thirty million worshippers bathe in the sacred river at Allahabad in a single day. The images are incredible, taking something as commonplace as water and capturing it in curiously beautiful ways. Tributaries of the dried-up Colorado River look like stunning woodcuts of snow-covered trees, while the Xiluodu Dam release in China is reminiscent of Victorian painter J.M.W. Turner's representation of natural forces.

Expanding on Burtynsky's photography, the film presents compelling first-hand accounts of how humanity has impacted water. It also captures the mesmerizing movement of water with aerial perspectives that allow us to witness the scale of what is before us.

Avoiding didacticism, Baichwal and Burtynsky explore human reverence of water in its natural state, and the massive impact of human intervention in its lifecycles. Part wonder, part lament, Watermark is a poetic and thought-provoking reflection on this most precious resource.

Watermark would be almost as successful as Manufactured Landscapes, enjoying a long commercial run in Toronto. It was voted on to TIFF’s annual Canada’s Top Ten list; won the Toronto Film Critics Association award for Best Canadian Feature (which came with a sizable cash prize); and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Documentary.

By: Agata Smoluch Del Sorbo