When Manufactured Landscapes hit theatres in 2006, the fascinating study of artist Edward Burtynsky was showered with praise and awards. Now, its acclaimed director is hoping lightning will strike twice.
With her latest documentary, Jennifer Baichwal is poised to repeat success for her paradoxical examination on fate and chance in Act of God (in theatres next Friday).
Exploring the casualties of lightning, Baichwal discovers everyone from a CIA assassin who died (only to be resurrected) to a Cuban community that emphatically ritualizes Shango, the god of lightning.
“When you’re dealing with something so ephemeral — a lightning strike can be one-one-thousandth of a second and yet it can carry millions of volts of electricity — there’s something about capturing that,” said Baichwal. “How do you take a subject that is not normally treated in (an artistic) way and focus on the metaphysical instead of the physical?”
In the case of Act of God, Baichwal and her cinematographer husband, Nick de Pencier, set out across the globe to meet those affected by the random act — if not capture it themselves.
“We just carried the camera around for two years and whenever there was a storm, we would start shooting,” laughed Baichwal. “There was always that question, ‘Well, are we both going to die out here in the storm or maybe I should go inside?’”
Surviving their global trek (and capturing some wonderful images along the way), Baichwal edited her footage into an intriguing examination of being touched by something so incredibly random.