By Nicole Walyshyn
Forget Nancy Pelosi. The news that James Cameron is coming to visit the oilsands, combined with the premiere of Fubar 2 at the Toronto Film Festival last night, creates a perfect PR storm for Alberta.
Cameron (who is, of course, the successfully grandiose director of Titanic and Avatar), advised Premier Ed Stelmach in a letter received yesterday that he’ll be in the province for a three-day fact-finding trip starting September 27th. When Avatar was released last year, its story of rapacious developers vs. indigenous locals raised inevitable comparisons with Premier Ed’s big northern sandbox. Cameron called the oilsands a “black eye” on Canada’s image, and native leaders invited him to visit the area. A step behind as usual, Stelmach followed-up with his own invitation, but now that he’s been taken up on it, his spokesman says “It’s kind of short notice” and that “if it’s possible to do it, the premier would be certainly glad to meet with him for a few minutes.”
That was precisely the wrong response. The correct response would be “Yessir, Mr. Cameron. Any dietary requests for the big state dinner we’d like to throw for you?” It seems to me unlikely that Cameron is visiting out of pure intellectual interest. May I remind the Premier that the director also makes documentaries, and that in between Titanic and Avatar he produced a number of widely seen films about the ocean, precisely because all that time in the water had piqued his interest? If he now decides to turn his attention topside, to the oilsands — if, in fact, his visit is more in the nature of a location scouting trip — it won’t matter how many dollars Alberta throws into public relations campaigns defending its tar baby. It is perfectly screwed. It’s unlikely that cowtowing to Cameron will make much difference — but pissing him off almost certainly will.
As for Fubar II: it is, as aficionados of art house film will already know, the sequel to the 2002 mockumentary about a pair of beer-fisting, mullet-growing Calgary headbangers who make Bob and Doug Mckenzie look like contenders for a genius grant. (The title is an acronym for “fucked up beyond all repair”.) By a neat coincidence, the new movie has them travelling up to Fort McMurray to work on, yes, the oil sands.
Hm, let’s see. James Cameron sets his eyepiece on Alberta’s 4700 sq. km. “beauty” mark while a movie about its not-best and not-brightest, featuring shots of the oilsands that, according to its director, look “kind of like Blade Runner“, opens before the international press in Toronto. As they used to say in that old Milton Berle routine: Makeup!