Cautionary docu about the world’s rapidly depleting oil reserves manages to avoid stridency and simplicity while delivering an alarmist message bolstered by myriad interviews with government, industry and academic experts. After completing its journey through the global fest pipeline, “OilCrash” could attract auds and spark debate through limited theatrical bookings. Swiss-produced pic also seems a natural for non-theatrical engagements sponsored by universities, museums and advocacy groups.
Like many docs of its type, “OilCrash” mines archival educational pics of yesteryear for dark ironies. In this case, filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack offer stark contrast between the sunny tone of ’50s shorts promising endless oil supplies, and dire warnings of contemporary observers regarding the precious and nonrenewable resource described as “the bloodstream of the world’s economy.”
Interviewees run the gamut from Roger E. Ebel, an ex-CIA official and Bush Administration adviser, to Fadhil Chalabi, former acting secretary general of OPEC and Iraqi oil minister.
As one commentator notes, Western appetite for oil has made the U.S. and other industrial nations “dependent on unstable regimes in some very nasty parts of the world.” Worse, some of those regimes have vastly overestimated their own oil reserves, using accounting techniques that the pic indicates are not unlike those once employed by Enron.
Meanwhile, however, oil consumption continues unabated. In one of many quietly unsettling scenes, an eager Houston auto dealer proudly promotes Hummers — which he admits have an estimated gas mileage of only 10 miles per gallon.
Long-range effects of mounting prices for a scarce commodity could be wide-ranging and devastating. For example, an academic claims that continued spikes in jet fuel costs could eventually make airline travel too expense for all but the wealthiest. Innovations such as hydrogen-powered cars could help, but maybe not quickly enough to avoid dire economic upheavals.
Overall tech polish goes a long way toward helping the filmmakers grab and sustain attention while delivering a virtually nonstop barrage of bad news.