Film series sheds light on oil industry

This past Thursday, Cinema Politica hosted their last screening of the semester. The latest installment featured H2Oil, a documentary exposing the severe health and environmental effects resulting from the extraction of crude from the Alberta tar sands.

“We’re really thrilled, I don’t think we expected such a great turnout consistently throughout the whole term,” said Tanya Richardson, co-ordinator of Cinema Politica’s K-W chapter. “Most of the turnout is students so that is really gratifying as well.”

H2Oil is the first Cinema Politica film of the year that featured Canadian content. The documentary is about the Albertan residents of Fort Chipewyan and their struggle with the expanding oil industries in the northern territory of the province.

As the largest supplier of oil to United States, the tar sands in Alberta serve as an important source of revenue. However, the industry has taken a severe toll on the environment and on the health of the residents in the surrounding area.

Initial reports have found that a variety of heavy metals have been found in excess amounts in the earth and water around Fort Chipewyan and in the Athabasca river. Arsenic levels amount to over 400 times the level of safe exposure for humans and animals.

This and other chemicals have created mutations in plant and animal life, causing increasing concern to the residents of Fort Chipewyan, who blame oil corporations like Suncor and Shell for the effects. The documentary attacks the methodical contamination of clean fresh water as well, with companies using up eight to ten barrels of clean water to produce just one barrel of oil.

Tailing ponds, man-made dams that store wastewater from the extraction process, have become a significant by-product of the oil industry. If the dam of an average-sized pond, some of which can be seen from space, were to break, it would result in a disaster 300 times worse than the Exon-Vadez.

The Fort Chipewyan community has been calling for provincial, national and even international assistance in launching a comprehensive study to uncover the extent to which the oil industry has affected the region. Thus far, no studies have been commissioned.

While Cinema Politica’s film roster for the following semester has yet to be selected, Richardson explains that, “There are always new movies coming out so we wanted to see what they were going to get to have the greatest selection.

“What we’re aiming for is variety, we don’t want too many overlapping themes. Main criteria is to provide a really gripping film,” Richardson concluded. Cinema Politica has featured the films Please Vote for Me and End of the Line in previous months. The films are available for sale online or at Generation X on Regina Street.

Cinema Politica is set to resume with regular installments of documentaries next semester. Film screenings are free to attend, but donations are always accepted.

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