Docmaker faces Dirty job

Word of a muckraking, two-hour documentary on the Alberta tar sands marked Canada's presence during the early days of the IDFA.
November 26, 2009

Word of a muckraking, two-hour documentary on the Alberta tar sands marked Canada’s presence during the early days of the IDFA.

One of the pitches on the opening day of the Amsterdam festival’s prestigious Forum was delivered by Alberta filmmaker Niobe Thompson in tandem with CBC’s Michael Claydon on that controversial topic. Tipping Point: The End of Dirty Oil promises to be a no-holds-barred investigation into what they call an ‘environmental freakshow, spewing cancer-causing toxins into aboriginal waterways and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.’

Already financed by the CBC, CTF, Alberta Film Development and the Canwest Independent Film Fund to the tune of some $726,000, the project still requires $259,000 for completion. Claydon and Thompson, the co-founder of Clearwater Media with doc veteran Tom Radford, intend to create the doc in tandem with The Nature of Things and hosted by David Suzuki. Clearwater will also create a 90-minute international version without Suzuki’s on-screen participation.

Both Claydon and Thompson expect tough reactions from the Alberta and Canadian governments over the doc, which features opponents to the sands effort including Dene Chief Allan Adam; Frances Beinecke, head of the National Resources Defense Council in the U.S.; and Canadian environmentalist David Schindler.

Schindler’s devastating findings of medical and environmental damage caused by the exploitation of the sands will be published in two months by the prestigious American National Academy of Science, and will be featured in the doc. Thompson is also expecting over the next two months to film ‘green celebrity’ Leonardo di Caprio speaking out against the tar sands operation, which the filmmakers assert allows North Americans to continue to ‘be addicted to oil.’

Claydon says he’s ‘not concerned’ about a possible Conservative backlash to the doc. ‘This is a national embarrassment. To me, supporting this film is a no-brainer,’ he said.

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam runs until Nov. 29

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.