Baichwal, Burtynsky partner again for Anthropocene

The documentary is the follow up to the pair's award-winning feature Watermark.
Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky Anthropocene

If you’ve never heard the word “Anthropocene” then you’re probably not alone. The term, which describes a new geological epoch brought about by man’s impact on the planet, is the focal point of a new documentary from award-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky and Mercury Film’s DOP Nick de Pencier.

However, it’s a word you may be hearing more often in the future says Baichwal, whose high-profile partnerships with Burtynsky have included Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark.

The filmmakers first came up with the idea for the documentary three years ago, and later used screenings of Watermark to ask people whether they had ever heard the term “Anthropocene.”

“Hardly anybody had heard of it,” Baichwal recalls, “and we thought ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to try to help make that concept widely recognizable.’”

The $1.5-$2 million doc, commissioned by The Movie Network, Movie Central and TV Ontario, went into production last fall and shooting has already been completed in Germany, Spain and the U.K. The plan is to film in approximately 10 more countries during 65 shoot days throughout 2016, though exactly where is not yet finalized, said Baichwal.

“The idea is that we’re looking for the most salient examples of human incursion on the planet,” said Baichwal.

Baichwal noted that Anthropocene is a bit of a hot topic at the moment, thanks to scientific research journal Sciencemag.org releasing a paper on it, which was picked up by international media. She said the producers have seen a spike in the number of inquiries about the project since then.

The release of the doc, which is scheduled for fall 2017, will also coincide with the launch of a museum show that incorporates virtual reality, as well as a book about Anthropocene (the topic). Baichwal said the producers will likely create four or five separate VR experiences based on the best-suited filming locations.

Baichwal and Burtynsky’s Watermark received a number of accolades, including the TFCA’s $100,000 Best Canadian Film Award and the DGC’s 2014 award for best doc, with the film also screening at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival.