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Crude Aesthetics

Crude Aesthetics

The Politics of Oil Documentaries

(p.350) 18 Crude Aesthetics
Oil Culture
Imre Szeman
University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the difficulties posed by representing petrocapitalism on film and the capacity of the documentary medium to depart from dominant narratives of the oil industry. To this end, it considers the manner in which oil is represented in three “feature” documentaries: Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack’s A Crude Awakening (2006), Joe Berlinger’s Crude: The Real Price of Oil (2009), and Shannon Walsh’s H2Oil (2009). In particular, it explores the range of ways in which these documentaries frame oil as a problem for their audiences, and what resources they offer as possible solutions to this ecological and social problem. It also discusses the politics and aesthetics of oil based on these three documentaries, as well as the potential of the problem of oil to destabilize the aims of both anticapitalist and environmental movements.

Keywords:   petrocapitalism, documentaries, oil, A Crude Awakening, Joe Berlinger, politics, aesthetics, anticapitalism, environmental movement

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