“It’s environmental Armageddon, it’s an oil spill on land” says Kate Colarulli of the Sierra Club regarding the Alberta tar sands, the world’s largest industrial, capital and energy project.
The unspoiled boreal forests of northern Canada compressed for 200 million years have created the world’s second largest oil reserve, roughly the size of England. The tar sands, a mixture of sand and a heavy crude oil called bitumen are mined in open pits after being forced to the surface by injecting superheated water into the ground.
With Canada being the largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the U.S. and production possibly tripling in coming years, the controversial mining of the tar sands already releases as much carbon dioxide per day into the environment as all the cars in Canada, making the extraction of crude from oil sands far worse for the environment than conventional oil production.
This massive industrialized mining effort has far-reaching impacts on the land, air, water, and climate although amazingly no comprehensive assessment of the megaproject’s environmental, economic, or social impact has been done.
Director Peter Mettler’s (MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES) film shot primarily from a helicopter offered an unparalleled view of this extraordinary spectacle, whose scope can only be understood from far above. In its melding of hypnotic imagery with a pulsing modernist score, PETROPOLIS: AERIAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE ALBERTA TAR SANDS features a timely look at a dehumanized world where petroleum's power is supreme.
★★★★ "Strikingly beautiful and presented in such confident, assured rhythms that you're almost hypnotized by the flow of images - until you realize you're watching grand-scale systematic destruction." —Norman Wilner, NOW Magazine
2009 Toronto Film Festival
2009 Vancouver Film Festival
2009 Film Festival Ghent (Belgium)
2009 Festival Dei Pompoli (Italy)
2009 Sheffield Doc Fest (England)
2010 Canadian Front Film Series (MoMA)
2010 Hong Kong Film Festival
2010 Rotterdam Film Festival
2010 Buenos Aires International Film Festival
2010 Genie Nomination, Best Short Documentary
"A gorgeous, affecting and deeply cinematic eco-documentary...something of a movie miracle." —Kevin Maher, The Times
"Finds both horror and strange beauty in man's capacity to force nature to bend to his skewed vision." —Peter Howell, Toronto Star
"A sumptuously shot aerial view of an ecological disaster, the Alberta tar sands. Using footage he created looking downward from a helicopter, Peter Mettler has created his own plaintive moving-image version of photographer Ed Burtynsky's politically engaging work." —Marc Glassman, Globe and Mail
★★★★½ "Mettler’s visually dazzling aerial coverage of the devastation caused by the Alberta tar sands project resembles one vast moving Ed Burtynsky photograph." —John Griffin, Montreal Gazette
★★★★ "The problem with one of the most alarming post-apocalyptic settings you'll ever see in a movie? It's real." —Kevin Williamson, Toronto Sun
"It's heartbreaking when it hits you that the overall visual experience of Mettler's film is like the journey of a bird, following a river route and then suddenly spotting strange creatures below as it searches for a place to land." —Jennie Punter, The Globe and Mail
★★★ "A starkly powerful indictment of an activity that wreaks environmental havoc in the name of progress, this is recommended." —Video Librarian