Directed by Ben Addelman. PG. 81 min. Opens June 15 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
As one community member puts it in Ben Addelman’s dispiriting documentary, the Alaskan village of Kivalina is the “canary in the coalmine” when it comes to the growing impact of global warming. Whether it’s the erosion from sea waves or the giant puddles that fill the streets, the big thaw has affected nearly aspect of the life for the Inupiat community. The situation is so grave that the decision to move the entire town to another location has already been approved. But this process has been stymied by politicians and bureaucrats unwilling to really confront the full implications (and financial costs) of the crisis.
When villagers join forces with a maverick lawyer to file a suit against the giants of the energy industry, they bring their plight to wider attention. But too many signs in Kivalina vs. Exxon suggest the gesture may be a hopeless one, especially when the town’s fate is further imperiled by new efforts to exploit the surrounding resources.
An incisive yet humane look at a place coping with a crisis that may soon engulf us all, Kivalina vs. Exxon is one of two grim global-warming docs at the Bloor this week (The Island President depicts similarly dire straits for the island nation of the Maldives). And while the film’s lack of a strong narrative throughline detracts from its overall impact, it’s nonetheless haunting as a study of the landscape and the people within it, thanks to Addelson’s thoughtful direction, the vivid cinematography by Steve Cosens, and Tim Hecker’s eerie score.