Canada 2009 40'
Infernal, poisonous images or a contemporary gold rush: the gigantic quarries of tar sands in Canada: an indispensable flight.
This concerns an open mine in the Province of Alberta; the largest of three, Athabasca, is 34 000 square Km. Most of the forest that was growing there has been cut down and the ground has been dug up to a depth of 50 metres to get at the tar sands from which it is possible to extract oil. The process is complex and requires a considerable amount of energy. For one barrel, some 80 kg of greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere… and reserves are estimated at 300 billion barrels of oil.
But how to measure the scale of this huge territory turned upside down? You need to take some altitude to see it! AERIAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE ALBERTA TAR SANDS is a film shot essentially from a helicopter on which a very sophisticated high-definition video camera has been fixed. Designed for military use, this technology was remote controlled by the operator, next to whom sat Peter Mettler.The spectacle is extraordinary, a dream turned into a nightmare. The approach is superb, a great river, forest land, bright sunlight. But then the landscape is transformed, the first signs of an industrial complex, the first surfaces in complex patterns, wide muddy roads, basins for runoff water and honey-coloured banks.The camera examines and discovers the huge excess of these extraction areas. Rarely have zoom movements been so relevant in isolating the mechanical monsters that work in slow motion like ghostly robots. These enlarged fragments of land and the little men milling around like ants, are the performers in a dehumanised ballet.
Peter Mettler meets several people on the ground, faces and voices that express a troubled conscience, pained at the site of the cataclysm. And the sound is essential, it invites us to meditate and is a salutary prevention from indulging in any form of poisonous fascination. These infernal images of a contemporary gold rush were not supposed to be taken. The companies totally forbade such a thing. AERIAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE ALBERTA TAR SANDS is the result of an indispensable disobedience: its images stolen from the sky, at the right distance, are all the more powerful.
Jean Perret, Visions du Réel Nyon 2009