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Doc Brief: ‘Watermark’

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To co-director and photographer Edward Burtynsky's question, “how does water shape us and how do we shape water?” the answer is not fully received in the documentary ‘Watermark.’ While the film, also with co-director Jennifer Baichwal, works to point out the vital sustenance that water provides in cultures around the world and the effect of surviving without, the impact feels too general. The narration and detail is limited as Edward examines locations such as California’s Colorado River, India, and the Xiluodu Dam in China through his lense. The film feels torn between the photography as artistic output offered from these world points and the back-story of these places and people as pertaining to water. Midst Edward’s work to create a book of photography, his significant time spent filming vast sweeping landscapes, spidering rivers, China’s enormous dam and its workers, great fountains, underwater life, and river bathers to name some are incredible, but with a hint of distraction from the greater issue of water in our lives. Some further voiceover discussing these cultures and interview time with the subjects involved would have created a more balanced and convincing feel. A Native American simply putting the cycle of water in perspective and how it relates all species, and a woman’s account of relocating years ago when the Colorado River tributaries dried up are the best, yet brief, examples of the environmental case. Valuable for gorgeous cinematography, expect to have the time to absorb what’s put in front of you with a good portion left up to interpretation.