TIFF 2013: Watermark – Capsule Review

Director: Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky
Runtime: 90 min
Rating: PG

Jennifer Baichwal returns to the Toronto International Film Festival with a controlled documentary about water and its importance on earth. A veteran in documentary filmmaking, she shows an open and expansive view of an issue that has deeply affected life throughout the ages. Watermark is a photographic journey of humanity and its relationship with water. The documentary takes the spectator to various places around the world in which interaction with water, as well as its consequences, is shown. Topics ranging from agriculture to hyper-building and rituals are explored, and these make for a visually stunning journey. The cinematography of Watermark is brilliant; nothing else is to be expected from a film so closely tied with photography. With long shots that perfectly capture entire surroundings, the images are crisp and clear. Although most of the documentary is highly visual, with long shots of landscapes, the firsthand accounts by people belonging to the countries the film exposes are a great touch to expand on the film’s case. Although these appearances are brief, they provide deep insight into people whose lives are intrinsically affected by water, not only as a resource for one’s own body, but as a resource in labour and spirituality. Although the film is stunning in visuals and content, its pace is quite stagnant. At times, it seems to drag on, and it feels as if entertaining isn’t one of its main objectives. Although highly expository, the film lacks gripping qualities, and it becomes a bit of a task to stay interested throughout its entire duration. Regardless, it is highly valuable on a visual level, and its stunning shots are sure to impress those who have enjoyed Baichwal’s work in the past.

Overall rating: 3/5

Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival