7 Feb 2007
Film Review – ‘A Crude Awakening – the Oil Crash’.
I had the pleasure of watching Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack’s new film **’A Crude Awakening’** recently, and was very impressed. The film has had a small number of screenings in various parts of the world, and is due to be shown in a small number of cinemas in the UK in April. It will be shown on April 5th as part of the Transition Town Totnes programme at the Barn Cinema, Dartington. It is the noble successor to ‘The End of Suburbia (EoS)’, whose crown it steals, becoming, for me, the best exposition of the peak oil argument yet committed to film.
The ‘talking heads’ are very good, some of them familiar (Campbell, Simmons, Savinar..) and others not. All have useful insights to offer on the situation, from perspectives new to the peak oil debate. Unlike EoS’s’ focus on suburbia, or ‘the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world’ as it describes it, this film goes beyond the US experience, being more of a global film, focusing on Europe and the UK as much as the US. Whereas the recent movie ‘Crude Impact’ focuses on too many things and it ends up a rather confused and exhausting sprawl, Crude Awakening keeps its gaze purely on peak oil, and presents a well argued, well-paced, and well-edited summary of what peak oil is and what it will mean for us all.
It begins by discussing what an amazing material oil is, how it was formed and how much energy it contains. The message is simple; oil is a one-off extraordinary legacy left to us by history, a material which is so extraordinarily energy-dense that it is little wonder that we have sucked it out of the ground and built an entire society out of it in little over 150 years. As the film goes on to point out, this absurd degree of dependency cannot continue, due to the imminent peaking in world oil production. This is the first film to contain archive film of M.King Hubbert, it is fascinating to see the great man himself on US television in 1975.
It is a film which avoids over sensationalising the material, allowing the facts to speak for themselves. It isn’t overly explicit about what the impacts of peak oil might be, allowing the viewer to follow those trains of thought in his or her own head. I found it compelling viewing, which while not the edge of the seat ride that EoS was, impacted in a different way. Like EoS it refuses to offer a happy ending, resisting the temptation to end on a rallying call of solutions, choosing to close with a very short section of my friends Clare and Quentin gardening and putting the goats out in West Cork, which although gorgeous, presents, like EoS the idea that the cities and the suburbs have no future at all, and that a rural idyll will be our only option. Perhaps some funky urban agriculture might have been a closing shot that would have resonate with more people.
Like EoS, its power lies in not sugaring the pill with lots of solutions. It takes you to a place where the enormity of the challenge sets in and leaves you there. It is a powerful, if upsetting, place to visit, but an essential part of peoples’ journeys through this. We might question how many of the unconverted would actually go and see a film called *”A Crude Awakening – the Oil Crash”*, it’ll be interesting to see how it does in the cinemas. As an activist, I feel this is an important tool. It is a peak oil film with great gravitas, and is one that will do a great deal to communicate the message. Organise a screening, get it out there, this is a powerful ally.