Interactive 'Fort McMoney' documentary to look at Canada's oilsands

November 25, 2013 11:00 PM

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Interactive 'Fort McMoney' documentary to look at Canada's oilsands

MONTREAL (AFP) -- An interactive web film will soon ask audiences to judge for themselves the pros and cons of Canada's oilsands, while marking the path of the world's third-largest energy reserve.

The so-called game documentary "Fort McMoney," launching on November 25, will invite viewers to take the long drive north into the Canadian wilds to the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., at the centre of the nation's oilpatch.

There, they will meet key players in Canada's rise to becoming an energy superpower, including oil company executives and environmental activists who oppose them.

As well they will connect with those on the periphery coping with the social changes that this massive wealth-generator has brought, such as Fort McMurray's mayor, bar managers, and oilsands workers living in trailer parks due to a housing shortage.

And they will make decisions for them, managing multi-billion-dollar investments in the oil sands, and dealing with the social and environmental blowback.

Filmmaker David Dufresne imagined hundreds of possible outcomes, allowing viewers to make up their own minds about a natural resource touted by the government as key to Canada's economic prosperity, but vilified by climate activists as heavily-polluting.

The documentary looks to "draw you in beyond" the usual rhetoric, and allow people to judge for themselves the impact, said the Montreal-based filmmaker.

While conventional crude oil is pumped from the ground, oil sands must be mined and bitumen separated from the sand and water, then upgraded and refined.

Centuries ago, local aboriginals used surface deposits to waterproof their canoes.

Over the past decade, skyrocketing crude oil prices and improved extraction methods have made it more economical to exploit the sands, and lured several international oil companies to mine them.

But the ensuing damage to the local environment, as well as the higher greenhouse gases emitted in the processing of the bitumen than conventional oil has prompted much criticism.

As well, Canada's exploitation of the resource has sparked rows with its allies -- with the United States over a pipeline connecting to Texas refineries, and with the European Union over its labelling of Canadian oil as "dirty."

Video footage for the hybrid game documentary was captured over 60 days, with the help of $870,000 in funding provided by Canada's film board and the Franco-German TV network Arte.

When it is rolled out on November 25, audiences will be invited to stream six hours of the film, and at the end of each week over a 30-day period vote on actions to take. Once the votes are tallied each Sunday night, the city of Fort McMurray will change accordingly.

"The city of Fort McMurray has been recreated virtually and will evolve as a result of this interactivity," explained Dufresne, best known for his exploration of the US prison industry in his award-winning 2009 film "Prison Valley."

Throughout the game-film, audiences will be asked, "What would you do?" he said.

In order to try to get the largest number of players possible, Dufresne has partnered with several large media outlets to promote it, including Canada's public broadcaster and the daily Globe and Mail, as well as France's Le Monde and German newspaper Suddeutsche -- all of which regularly cover oil sands goings-on.

Players can register at the website at or by using their Facebook or Twitter account to access the game documentary in French, German and English.


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