Dirty Oil Film Review

Release Date (UK) – 19th March  2010
Certificate (UK) – U
Country – USA
Director – Leslie Iwerks
Runtime – 101 mins

The Co-operative and film distributor Dogwoof have worked together on the distribution of three films so far. This partnership started off brilliantly with the Oscar nominated BurmaVJ, a harrowing tale of the treatment of video journalists in Burma. It continued with the undeniably awful Vanishing of the Bees, a poorly constructed, tedious film about the environmental impact of pesticides on the world’s bee population. Unfortunately their third production, Dirty Oil, comes closest to the quality of the latter.

Dirty Oil starts off with the interesting news that despite the assumption that America imports the majority of its oil from the Middle East, it actually nearly all comes from the Tar Sands in neighbouring Canada. The film concentrates on the Alberta Tar Sands in particular and dissects how the colossal oil companies are devastating the natural landscape, investigating the impact of the refineries on the health of the people of Alberta. Dirty Oil  runs through a variety of interviews with ecologists, Alberta residents, and officials, alongside helicopter footage of the destruction around the town of Fort McMurray where the core of the operation is based.

Whereas recent environmental documentaries like The Age of Stupid and The End of the Line are filled with shocking facts and statistics, Dirty Oil has no such evidence, making the film feel overstretched and tediously repetitive. There’s not really enough material to fill the mere 73 minutes of the film, and out of desperation director Leslie Iwerks moves on to other topics near the end of the film, such as the polluting of Lake Michigan by oil company British Petroleum.

Dirty Oil: The Alberta Tar Sands

Positioned as an environmental production, Dirty Oil struggles to clarify its arguments for (or against) the oil businesses, with particular scenes delivered through what seems to be random, unrelated clips. Another problem  is the strange use of Neve Campbell as narrator. This narration seems to consist of about three lines dotted throughout the documentary, rather than a constant stream of information and facts.  It feels like this was added after the film was finished, simply to add audience pulling power to the film by using Campbell’s recognisable name.

Because the film is so poorly constructed we quickly lose interest in the subject altogether and whilst the Co-op has the environments interest at heart, they should assess the quality of the films they choose before associating their brand with them.  If you haven’t seen The Age of Stupid yet and want to watch an interesting environmental documentary, then I’d recommend you rent that instead.

Dirty Oil Trailer

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