By Joey Clavette
Last Saturday night we hosted the independent Canadian film Line in the Sand, and its co-director Jean-Philippe Marquis. A film about pipelines, it was even more than the journalistic experience it presents itself as. The cinematography pops off the screen, along with an earthy arrangement of folk music to keep the beat of the film. At one point a sombre interview comes to an close, and rather than shifting to any music or hurrying to another interview the filmmakers decided to take their time. The screen is filled with shots of mountainous vistas, lakes and colourful wildlife in total silence, and the content of the film strikes you head on. You realize exactly what’s at stake.
Line in the Sand is the making of twofriends, Jean-Philippe Marquis, the filmmaker, and Thomas Borsa, the journalist, who take it upon themselves to set the media record straight over the impact of oil-sands development in the West. They take a special interest in pipelines and travel across Alberta and Northern B.C. in order to hear first hand from those in the tracks of the pipeline what they think of the pipeline. You hear farmer horror stories, like how legislation allows oil companies to “rent” land on a farm, but leave their pipes under the farmland indefinitely, leaving it to the farmer to clean up when it collapses. You hear the stories of many sick people, you hear about how clean up measures are completely ineffective. You see oil companies simply burying oil under dirt rather than actually cleaning it. You learn most of all that pipelines are a dirty game.
All that being said, it would be disingenuous to classify the film as strictly anti-pipeline. It’s largely a direct-cinema documentary, passively recording the stories of those effected by pipelines, with minimal narration from Borsa, and some found footage over top. What becomes apparent in the film is that pipelines themselves may not be evil, but it is environmental, and human neglect compounded with terrible legislation that makes the problem. It’s certainly a Harper-era film, though who can be sure we’re out of the water yet—not likely. A big issue is the fact that cities benefit from pipelines without seeing the negative effects it has on rural communities. The needs of oil must be balanced with the needs of agriculture and the needs of a clean environment, all needs which huge oil companies and politicians with their pockets lined don’t give a shit about.
Also very prominent and refreshing in the film is the honest look at our nation’s colonial heritage. Native Canadians play a prominent role in the film, not out of any gimmick—but because they’re there. Because they’re actually there fighting, even after legislation like Bill C-51 tries to deem them terrorists. Marquis at one point mentioned that in all his travels, he had not seen any natives who support the pipeline, which is something to keep in mind when reports are released spewing falsities like “60% of native bands are in support of X pipeline”.
Line in the Sand is an excellent piece of cinema and we’re extremely glad to have screened it at Cinema Academica.
Check out their website here
And check out these clips: