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Fluid borders in documentary ‘Watermark’

Edward Burtynsky’s “Kumbh Mela #1, Haridwar, India.”
Edward Burtynsky’s “Kumbh Mela #1, Haridwar, India.”Edward Burtynsky photo/Howard Greenberg & Bryce Wolkowitz

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Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky make gorgeous warnings. Their last documentary collaboration, 2006’s jaw-dropping “Manufactured Landscapes,” combined Baichwal’s inexorable camera moves and Burtynsky’s eye for environmentally degraded industrial vistas to jolt audiences out of their complacency. It was as if an alien were hovering over a planet, our planet, on the verge of ruin.

“Watermark” opens with a similar sense of disaster disguised as beauty: a slow-motion shot of what appear to be river rapids, water jetting up and out in majestic sprays. Very artful. Only later in the film do we learn that we’re seeing the silt release from the massive Xiaolangdi Dam in China. Before that, we’ve visited the parched, cracked desert in Mexico where the Colorado River used to be.

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