As paying at the pump gets pricier by the day, the well-timed "GasHole" fuels driving concerns about Big Oil greed, domestic dependence on foreign crude, the global economy, and, not least, the environment.

As paying at the pump gets pricier by the day, the well-timed “GasHole” fuels driving concerns about Big Oil greed, domestic dependence on foreign crude, the global economy, and, not least, the environment. Alternatively powered by public-domain footage as well as talking heads and voiceover narration, the shrewdly produced and principled docu has compelled Republican filmmakers Jeremy Wagener and Scott D. Roberts to take their self-distributed show on the road, ironically or not, with stops in U.S. cities skedded through summer’s end. Pic’s value stands to rise in direct proportion to gas costs, which show little sign of decreasing soon.

Film opens in historical mode with archival proclamations from Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, the last of whom, circa 1980, presciently identifies the “clear and present danger” of U.S. addiction to Mideast pipelines. There will be blood, pic asserts, whenever there’s oil, drawing evidence not just from the current war in Iraq but also from the mysterious demises of early veggie-oil fan Rudolf Diesel and vapor-engine pioneer Tom Ogle, who got 100 miles to the gallon in the Lone Star state before turning up dead of an unlikely drug overdose. (Current oil executives unsurprisingly declined to speak on camera about these or any other matters.)

Conspiracy theorizing, though, is kept to a relative minimum as contempo interviewees — from economic historian Les Manns to “biodiesel fuel consumer” and “Dawson’s Creek” alum Joshua Jackson — help sketch the century-old rapacity of Standard Oil and the increasingly incestuous relations between auto and oil industries. Coming across as a George Clooney-in-training, Jackson smartly acknowledges Big Oil’s basic moneymaking agenda while accusing price-gouging corporations of exploiting working people and doing undue damage to both environment and economy.

Some of the pic’s points register as obvious and infuriating at once; hardest-hitting are the passages that point to oil execs’ use of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to post record profits, and to their strategies, twice defended before Congress, of reducing domestic refinery capacity by way of pumping up revenue.

Despite Peter Gallagher’s occasionally sputtering narration (“How did things get to be like this?”), the vehicle runs smoother than 2006′s wobbly investigation “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Docu, albeit pro-biodiesel, avoids entering the ethanol debate in earnest, preferring to suggest that any alternative to wanton petrol-guzzling bears consideration. So, too, “GasHole” surprises by drawing quotes from the bipartisan pool, even excerpting President Bush’s 2006 call to reduce oil imports from Mideast. Footage of outraged consumers waving placards that read “Oil $$ Out of Congress” won’t likely delight all viewers, however.

Blown up from DV, the 35mm print making current rounds looks light on color, but not enough to dull pic’s timely message. Other tech credits, including snippets of illustrative animation, are no more than adequate.

GasHole

Production

A Film Racket release of a Braint Media/JK production. Produced by Jeremy Wagener, Scott D. Roberts. Executive producers, Kevin Lange, Fred Sharif, Edward J. Rossi, Kathy Alcaraz. Co-producer, Jessica Moon Wagener. Directed, written, edited by Jeremy Wagener, Scott D. Roberts.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Wagener, Roberts; music, Bob DeMaa; animation, Christopher Wagener. Reviewed at Riverview Theater, Minneapolis, June 10, 2008. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Joshua Jackson, Curtis Wright, Sherwood Boehlert, Anna Eshoo, Jamie Court, Mark Brinkerhoff, Les Manns, Brian Pauwels.
Narrator: Peter Gallagher.
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