In a time where oil exploitation and its techniques are deemed more and more as disrespectful for the environment, linked to colossal tragedies, and clearly represent a political stake, Anticosti: La Chasse au Pétrole Extreme takes on the latest polemical issues in modern Québec… Should we or should we not approve oil exploration and possible exploitation on this wild and mostly untouched island.
Well known for having fought oil exploitation in his own town, the documentary marks director Dominic Champagne’s return to the battlefront. But if Champagne has (in my humble opinion) masterfully captured the beauty and serenity of this little paradise, the main subject itself felt underdeveloped and gave a one-sided view only.
Anticosti: La Chasse au Pétrole Extreme is a trip to the population 200,000 deer island, where Petrolia, a Quebec oil company, is about to start fracking in order to explore the possibility of future exploitation on a massive scale. In this peaceful and lyrical effort, the director and his son offers a touching portrait of an eco-system and its community: Nature, animals and humans.
Do not prepare any list of questions.
But as strongly Champagne’s heartfelt SOS resonates in my mind, I must admit that his pamphlet bares a lot more poetry than convincing facts that are capable of changing mentalities. For those wondering where the island is geographically situated, how one can access it or who the mayor is in town, no answer is forthcoming. You’ll see plenty of nature, deer and townfolk… But hardly any maps, statistics, oil exploration plans. Where will they frack? How many hectares of wild untouched forest will be annihilated in the process? What is the ecological impact, whether short or long term? What demonstration of corruption lies behind Hydro-Québec’s pact with Petrolia? Throw away any list of questions you might have; you will get no answers. Nor will you see anyone showing signs of discordance with the director’s point of view… Well, almost. I did see one villager. But every one in this piece shares an un-sympatic view over the project.
In the end, I did get some information, but nothing more (maybe less?) than what we learned in numerous other documentaries before.
But if, to my senses, this documentary lacked hard evidence, it succeeded in portraying Anticosti Island, its people and above all, its beauty to perfection. As Champagne visits the island, his vision is simply magical. Katerine Giguère’s cinematography is nothing less than sublime and presents us with a landscape through such a beautiful eye that early on in the film, I had to fight my rising desire to migrate to the island. Music also plays an important part in the film, adding voice to the peaceful environment.
In the end, Anticosti: la chasse au pétrole extrême shows more resemblance to National Geographic than to a political debate. Giving away no more facts than a TV report, it felt a bit long and redundant… Barring a lot of promising avenues to explore, from his son’s first hunting trip to some (one) villager’s obscure acceptance of the project, all this is left unexplored… just as the Island itself.
Ultimately, see it. Hopefully, you’ll find in its beautiful nature the reasons you were looking for to speak up.
Anticosti: la Chasse au Pétrole Extrême opened May 5th at Cinema Excentris (3536 St Laurent). Pat Bonin of Greenpeace appears on May 6 at 6 p.m. and director Dominic Champagne on May 7 and 8 at 6 p.m.