Trouble in the Peace captures a nightmarish situation
A documentary by Julian T. Pinder. Unrated. Opens Friday, March 1, at the Vancity Theatre
“It looks like hell’s right over the horizon,” declares a farmer in northeastern British Columbia. He’s the sort who shuns electricity and uses a horse-drawn plow, but the man’s not invoking the Bible. He’s describing gas flares that burn into the night, emitting smoke and who knows what, attacking the health of his children, neighbours, and everyone’s crops and livestock.
This is one of many Peace River Country denizens who show up in Julian T. Pinder’s surprisingly lyrical look at a way of life quickly being rendered quaint, if not extinct, and at taxpayers’ considerable expense. The film’s focus more frequently rests on Karl Mattson, a bearded fifth-generation rancher with a penchant for unusual art projects. Most hideously, he preserved a two-headed calf, born shortly after yet another fracking company moved in across the road from his family spread.
Mattson has also, it turns out, been filming community meetings, which become more sparsely attended, as well as desperate, as fear sets in among the rural population. The locals know by now that corporations are sucking the milkshake out of their properties, but the 90-minute doc doesn’t go into the technical stuff covered in many recent docs.
Still, it’s clear that the petroleum industry has latched on to a good thing; with government help, they get land cheap and water even cheaper—a taxpayer-funded rape of areas too remote for media to keep easy tabs on. Alleged oversight, provincially and in Ottawa, is led by industry veterans who bury citizen complaints under reams of red tape, knowing their well-paid colleagues will have vacated these lunar landscapes long before the public catches on.
If anything, the somewhat languorous Trouble prettifies the problem, using Kurt Swinghammer’s eerie music to add soothing undertones to the beautifully shot, if nightmarish, images. No coat of paint, however, can protect us from the inferno we’re buying in the Peace.