Peter Mettler film on tar sands to make North American premiere at TIFF

Feature story - August 3, 2009
Greenpeace Canada is pleased to announce that Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands will make its North American debut at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival this September.

Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands

Shot primarily from a helicopter in cinematic high-definition, Petropolis offers an unparalleled view of the largest industrial project on earth. The film, directed by award-winning filmmaker Peter Mettler, is a visual exploration of the tar sands that brings viewers directly into the oily belly of the beast.

"There has been a lot of debate about the tar sands, but the opportunities to actually see and somehow experience them have been rare," said Mettler. "The beauty of cinema is that it can deliver an experience at least somewhat close to the real thing - in this case though, seriously lacking the smell."

The 43-minute film is part of TIFF's Real to Reel programme and will compete in the short documentary category. It's the first film ever produced by Greenpeace Canada and has only been screened on one other occasion, at the Visions du Réel film festival in Nyon, Switzerland, where it won the "Prix du jury du jeune public" (Public youth prize) in April.

For more than 20 years, Peter Mettler's films and collaborations have taken a unique and influential position within cinema. His visionary meditation Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002) won the director a Genie Award for Best Documentary, and his collaborations such as a cinematographer on the early films of Atom Egoyan and Jennifer Baichwal's Manufactured Landscapes have been acclaimed for their visual acuity.

"Petropolis is a beautiful film on a very ugly subject," said Spencer Tripp, communications director at Greenpeace Canada and the executive producer of the film.  "By showcasing the extreme destruction of the tar sands, this film will help raise awareness of the consequences of our reliance on dirty oil."

Canada's tar sands are an oil reserve the size of England. Extracting the crude oil called bitumen from underneath unspoiled wilderness requires a massive industrialized effort with far-reaching impacts on the land, air, water, and climate, as well as First Nations communities downstream.

In addition to Mettler's film, Greenpeace conducted interviews for presentation solely as short "webisodes" online at the film's website ( These further illuminate the wide-reaching development with first-hand accounts from residents of Fort Chipewyan, Fort McMurray, Fort Saskatchewan and leading climate and water experts.