BRAUN: Beautiful photo's of terrible things

The end of the world is beautiful to look at.

See it yourself Anthropocene: The Human Epoch, a new film that offers beautiful photos of the mess that people have made on this planet.

Anthropocene is the name of the current geological age, a period in which the predominant influence on the environment is human activity.

Documentation of that activity are filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier, and photographer Edward Burtynsky. Anthropocene: the human age is their third film together afterwards Manufactured landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013).

They visited six continents and 20 countries to make this film and an additional exhibition that is now open in Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery in Ottawa. (The exhibits include beautiful new photos from Burtynsky, film installations from Baichwal and the Pencier and some simply amazing 3D virtual reality experiences – like a visit to the very last Northern White Rhino, now extinct.)

Again, the trio invites viewers to travel to the far corners of the earth to see for themselves the beauty of this planet – and the misery people have inflicted on it. The film opens with the power and anger of a massive forest fire and then moves through gobsmacking scenarios of pillage: Tthe industrial wasteland of Siberia, marble mines in Carrara, well-organized felling in British Columbia, lithium basins in Chile, the open pit of brown coal mining in Germany that swallows entire cities.

Anthropocene: the human age moves between huge, overwhelming aerial photographs of urban sprawl and intimate, detailed look at places like the Dandora landfill in Nairobi – an ad-hoc city made of discarded plastic and waste.

It also focuses on some of the animals that are on the verge of extinction and with the obvious implication: we are the next.

The film, believe it or not, has a hopeful arc. In an interview during TIFF, Baichwal, Pencier and Burtynsky spoke about positive change, large and small.

Baichwal says the series about animal extinction: "I think is the emotional top of the film, it is where empathy transcends species, and if you know that it is people who cause the sixth major extinction, you wonder a bit. & # 39; Are we really capable of doing that? & # 39; But that is what we do. We are capable of it.

"How can we change it?"

Elephant Tusk Burn, Nairobi National Park, Kenya (courtesy of Anthropocene Films Inc.)

This film is clearly part of an attempt at change.

"People ask us to make beautiful images of terrible things, but it is more that you try to make a door for lasting reflection, walk through that door to understanding," says Baichwal. "It's only because of something that draws you in and makes you compelling, if we can do that …"

De Pencier says, "The film is not prescriptive, not finger-smart, it would be an invitation for everyone to think about these things, no matter what your political line or preconceived ideas might be." It is meant as a witness. take you to these places as you have really been and experience them without much agenda, try to keep the polemic side out and simply take you inside, in images and sound. "

Burtynsky adds that we can make changes to our own backyard. For example, Ontario and Manitoba are the only provinces that do not have a deposit on plastic bottles.

"In Ontario, we produce 3 billion plastic bottles annually and 80% of them come to the rubbish dump for 90% and are not recycled," he says. "As soon as you get back your deposit, it returns and 90% is recycled, and it creates a huge source of income – 10 cents on a bottle produces $ 300 million, which more than pays for a program – someone just has to say," Let's do it. "Let's get some provincial legislation, you need political will and a shift in consciousness."

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