finally the desaturated sky has blown away

100 X 100: 100 rooms, each 100 square feet in size – photographs of residents in their flats in Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estate.

Nicole rented a documentary on human created spaces, called Manufactured Landscapes, that we watched over at Andrew’s with Brett. It opens with a long slow pan through an immense Chinese factory that never seems to end, as if it’s a trick result of careful editing instead of a simple uncut dolly shot. When seen from above, the factory floor looks like an illusion – it is impossible to see the other end. The distance closes down into a perfect figure of perspective, the rows of workers shutting down into a single horizon line, as if the curvature of the earth might be trapped inside with them. The next shot reels you on as the opening sequence, an outdoor file of all the company’s employees, each in a hot yellow shirt, lining up in boxes, twenty people square, stretches for as far as the eye can see. Again it doesn’t look real, there’s simply too many people, too much uniformity. Our first instinct was almost denial.

A Canadian film, inspired by the surreal visuals that mining inflicts into the earth, it presents a silently analytical framework for assessing the awe-threatening disparities that people are capable of spreading across countries, (or even regions), without care for the environment. It combines, without saying so, both economic and social variables, and refers in particular to the marked differences in consumption that mark developing countries. China and India especially, where the economic attributes create living standards unthinkable here, where industry is being created haphazardly, in situations almost bronze age, with computer chips being recycled by grandmothers who separate the precious flakes of metal from their plastic components by beating them with rocks or where barefoot men dismember gigantic ships using hand-woven rope and swim laughing through the raw oil sludge left in the bottom of the tanks. It was inspiring, terrifying, and close enough to touch. I have never been a “scared for our children” sort, but I felt, somehow, that a lot of the people pictured should be.

Has anyone heard of a follow-up to Robert Newman’s History of Oil? It seemed so important when it came out, but I haven’t heard anything. I would rather it weren’t swallowed by apathy.

EDIT: I’ve just created a syndication feed for his site: robnewman