Published Jan 21, 2010For anyone unfamiliar, the Alberta Oil Sands, located roughly around Fort McMurray, are large deposits of bitumen, a heavy crude oil, lying beneath 54,000 square miles of Boreal forest. While the mining and industrialization of the area spell significant economic rewards, boasting the second largest oil reserve in the world, the manufacturing process and rapid expansion of the endeavour raise environmental concerns.
Of chief alarm is water consumption, as the usage nearly doubles the demands of the entire city of Calgary, along with the energy application of natural gasses, which account for approximately 40-percent of Alberta's usage. This, of course, accounts for substantial greenhouse gas emissions.
Peter Mettler's 43-minute documentary is simple enough, featuring, as the title suggests, aerial photography of the Athabasca Oil operation, delivering on its promise of perspective on environmental concerns. Aside from some initial subtitles outlining the specifics on bitumen production, no words accompany the visuals until the 36-minute mark, when an anecdote involving Marie Antoinette and a hot-air balloon pops up.
Featuring high definition images, the footage is indeed nothing short of breathtaking, tracking through the clouds and over the forest, only to move in closer to reveal its proximity and intermingling with excess emissions and an industrial mosaic. The sheer magnitude of the project is certainly something to behold, even if the message of perspective is a little trite.
Given the deliberate agenda and visual specificity, the audience for this doc is implicit, and they should appreciate the earthly delights with aid of herbal refreshment and subsequent introspection. A smug sensibility does limit viewership, as there is a sense of proclaimed stoic brilliance where there is only another finger stuck in an ever-deteriorating dyke, but letting the images speak for themselves is a wise move regardless.
As an added bonus, Q&A sessions will follow screenings of the film, likely to raise awareness on the issue and advise how to get involved in various protest groups. (Mongrel Media)