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Film Review: “Blind Spot”

Film Review: “Blind Spot”

Review of ‘Blind Spot’ DVD. 2008. Dislexic Productions. Directed by Adolfo Doring.

Any new peak oil film is inevitably going to be judged in the context of the films that have gone before it. Blind Spot is no exception. Does it offer any new insights or any new way of telling the story that previous examples of the genre haven’t? The answer, unfortunately, is no. In fact, I have to say that my despite being, as we have probably established by now, fascinated by the whole subject, I struggled to keep my eyes open for the full 88 minutes of the film.

Despite its very high production values, the format of Blind Spot becomes fairly stultifying after a while. Talking head after talking head (including many of your favourites, Heinberg, Deffeyes, Catton, Jensen, Tainter, a veritable cavalcade of peakists, doomers and catastrophists, all of whom are excellent), tell the peak oil story and why it matters, overlaid firstly with images of industrial society, and then with images of Nature and the environment. That’s it really, and there is not enough in that to sustain the viewer’s interest for an hour and a half (it certainly didn’t sustain mine).

I also struggled with the film’s basic premise. As the back cover blurb puts it “… we have put ourselves at a crossroad which offers two paths, both with dire consequences. If we continue to burn fossil fuels we will choke the life out of the planet, and if we don’t our way of life will collapse”. Really, if there is no thinking of any way through, or any way forward, or indeed if our ‘way of life’ changing substantially is seen as an utterly dreadful option, then for me at least, this film has nothing to offer.

Does it have End of Suburbia’s in your face, earth-shattering analysis of our oil dependency and the kick in the pants peak oil will give us? No. Does it have Crude Awakening’s powerful narrative about how the Oil Age has destroyed environments around the world and led to our perilous state of addiction? No. Does it have What a Way to Go’s sensitive exploration of how peak oil and the impacts it will have on society are affecting us all, allowing us to sit in the place of really feeling how all this affects us? No. Does it even have the compelling if slightly hallucinagenic feel of Imposed by Nature, which feels almost like a Burroughs-esque peak oil road movie? No. It is pretty much bereft of narrative, it doesn’t really tell a story at all.

Blind Spot felt to me like a collection of out-takes from End of Suburbia and What a Way to Go spliced together with some stock (albeit rather beautiful) footage of nature scenes. My sense is that peak oil films, especially if they are to distinguish themselves from those that have gone before them, need to tell a powerful story, they need to shock, or to inform with a fresh perspective, or they need to uplift and inspire with possibilities. This film does none of the above. Whereas Crude Impact tried to be 8 different films at once and ended up doing none of them very well, Blind Spot feels like it is struggling to even work out what kind of film it wants to be.

It is important to say that I am writing this from the perspective of having seen many such films on the peak oil subject, from the life-changing to the dreadful. It is therefore impossible for me to speak from the viewpoint of someone who has never seen a film on peak oil before, and how this film would come across to them. I suspect they would find it mildly interesting for the first half an hour, but then they would start to lose interest, and this is a subject in which it is vital that people don’t lose interest.

The recent film Age of Stupid (previewed at the Transition Network conference) did a great job of telling several stories in such a way as to weave a compelling narrative. It had drama, pace and ambition (although it was also pretty unremittingly focused on the problem rather than what we might do about it), all of which are missing from this film. The other thing that is fascinating to observe is that when you make a film about peak oil, unless you also look at responses and implications, you will end up with an almost exclusively male cast, as Blind Spot does. The interviewees are an esteemed, wise, but rather predictable collection, it would have been good to see some less often heard voices (when, for example, will we see a film with Sharon Astyk in it?).

So would I recommend it as a film you might like to show in your Transition groups? Sorry, not really. You might find it useful to show certain clips, certain sections from it which discuss different aspects you find interesting, but as a call-to-arms, as a powerful immersion in the challenges coming our way, as an invitation to be a part of creating the post-peak world, or even as something to scare you out of your wits, Blind Spot is a pretty unsatisfying and un-nourishing experience.