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Sud Eau Nord Déplacer (South to North)

Sunday, May 8, 2016 - 2:00pm

Sud Eau Nord Déplacer (South to North)

Antoine Boutet | 
France |
 2015 | 
110 minutes


The subject of Antoine Boutet’s extraordinary film is made clear from the opening scene. It is scale. China’s rapid urbanization, unfettered development, and human displacement have been the subject of many recent documentaries. Boutet follows the construction of the Nan Shui Bei Diao — South North Water Transfer Project — the largest water transfer project in the world. As engineers build gargantuan concrete waterways, flooding areas that were traditionally desert, turning grassland into forest, remaking entire ecosystems — a massive sign helpfully indicates, “The people from grasslands love the communist party.” Scenes of tiny humans trotting across the landscape, busily reconfiguring it into something almost unrecognizable are captured in long panning shots. “Change the face of the world,” is how one environmental activist, who travels about on his bike, describes it. He goes on to explain that the root cause of these projects is not always about profit, as much as personal ego: “The Three Gorges Dam is Li Peng. It’s not really a State project but a Li Peng project.” Political power comes about through the control of such mega-projects. It is hard not to be weirdly in awe of such enormity. There is an almost surrealist aspect to some of the images captured here. A sad bear mascot, his chest emblazoned with the word ‘ love’ waves disconsolately at the camera. New cities are constructed in which no people live, while Party functionaries explain the glorious rationale behind it all. At a certain point an Ozymandias-type of horror sets in as the scale of destruction becomes apparent. But there is a burgeoning environmental movement in China that is growing into something equally massive. -DW


Antoine Boutet

Antoine Boutet lives and works in Bordeaux (France), even though his recent projects have seen him spend months at a time in China or the remote corners of the Dordogne. The essential part of his work, primarily using techniques of photography, installation, video is based around urban mutations and its resonances on the population in which we the spectator are invited to (re)consider the political implications. His video installations or interventions in the public space are occasions to collaborate with urbanists, researchers and the inhabitants.