Apocalypse now? Dark visions at Toronto film festival

Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:19pm EDT
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By Frank McGurty

TORONTO (Reuters) - A new wave of documentaries at this year's Toronto International Film Festival poses a disturbing question: is environmental and social disaster on a global scale imminent and perhaps inevitable?

Doomsday visions captured by three filmmakers at the annual industry event may have seemed a bit implausible only a couple of years ago. But after the global economy's near-death experience over the past 12 months, such ideas may no longer strike audiences as radical or hard to fathom.

"Compared to ... even five years ago, a lot has changed in the consciousness of people about the environment," said director Peter Mettler about his film "Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives of the Alberta Tar Sands."

Mettler presents a bird's eye view of the sprawling oil-sands projects carved out of the boreal forests of northern Canada, capturing the massive scale of the destruction there. His is not the only film to spell gloom, and even doom.

"Colony" by Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell is a mystery story about the pastoral world of beekeeping turned on its head by a phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder" and its devastating impact on agriculture.

Michael Moore, always one to rake up the muck, has grabbed headlines for his take on 2008's financial market meltdown with Capitalism: the Movie," but perhaps a more ominous picture of a world in crises is painted by "Collapse" director Chris Smith.

Taken together, this wave of doomsday documentaries might make audiences wonder if they should be stocking their shelves with food and water. But Mettler, whose credits include "Gambling, Gods and LSD," says the underlying theme is, more simply, raising the consciousness of how people see the world.

"That is the essential element of the problem about the oil sands," he said. "We are short-sighted and disconnected."   Continued...

<p>A scene from "Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives of the Alberta Tar Sands". REUTERS/TIFF/Handout</p>