Oil Sands Karaoke

(Canada, 2013, 82 mins, DCP)
EXEC PRODS Murray Battle, Kevin Eastwood
PRODS/CAMS/EDS Tina Schliessler, Charles Wilkinson
MUS Bill Sheppard
PROD CO Shore Films
Guests in attendance.


Fort McMurray has experienced unprecedented growth due to the environmentally dangerous oil industry. The operations in the tar sands are certainly ripe for discussion, but the subject is so polarizing that meaningful debate suffers. Oil Sands Karaoke addresses the tension between work and worldliness in fluid interviews with a handful of workers who are also preparing for a karaoke contest. The documentary crew became talent scouts of sorts, filming at Bailey’s—Fort McMurray’s premier karaoke bar—and looking for locals with good voices and better stories.

We meet Brandy Willier, a tiny driver of enormous trucks with a talent for tackling Britney Spears tunes, and Massey Whiteknife, an aboriginal entrepreneur better known on stage as Iceis Rain—a karaoke drag queen. The singers offer viewers a fresh, nuanced understanding of Fort McMurray while the film paints its inhabitants as identifiable and intelligent individuals torn between a sense of purpose and a sense of duty. Aerial shots of heavy machinery moving mountains of dirt contrast with close-up interviews and creatively framed footage of workers singing. Filmmaker Charles Wilkinson (VIFF11 award-winner Peace Out) provides context for a meaningful and multifaceted discussion about the environment, the economy and the human element in a destructive industry.

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Charles Wilkinson
Shore Films
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