Writer/Director: Jessica Yu
Running time: 95 mins
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL Screenings - Sun 10 Jun 6.00pm; Mon 11 Jun 4.00pm.
Over the last few years, documentarians have gotten angrier. Putting the heavily-politicized films of Michael Moore aside, video chroniclers have led the battle-cry to conserve our resources (Leila and Nadia Conners’ The 11th Hour), contain our consumerism (Morgan Spurlock’s The Greatest Story Ever Sold) and protect our species (Robert Kenner’s Food Inc). Factual filmmakers are the new crusaders, their artform grasping complacent audiences and nudging, tickling, prodding or, occasionally, bludgeoning them into action.
The latest entertaining cage-rattler is Jessica Yu, whose accomplished Last Call at the Oasis provides a convincing account of the flashpoint mankind finds itself at over the very substance that keeps us alive – water. Working with the production team who turned an Al Gore lecture series into one of the most successful docos ever, An Inconvenient Truth, Yu examines the misuse and abuse employed via traditional aqua-technology methods.
She adheres to what is becoming a fairly standard modus operandi for the high-end modern doco-maker – dry stats presented as cute animation, sly humour and eccentric characters intercut with the inherent human cost of her cause. Scenes involving the dying Australian landscape and the impact upon the men and their families who fight to save their stock are the most empathetically engaging in Last Call at the Oasis.
Yu leans a little heavily on the science of her argument and her film bogs down slightly at the midway point. There is also a tendency to jump from one argumentative component (the insidious practice of fracking, let’s say) to another (the exploitative bottled-water industry) with a series of rather too tenuous links, giving the work an occasionally disjointed momentum. Real-life crusader Erin Brokovich adds an air of resignation to one township’s fight against governmental largesse, her presence a reminder as to the far-reaching (some might say, insurmountable) implications of this issue.
Unlike the longterm causes and remedies for global warming, many of the solutions to the water crisis, as presented with simple precision in Last Call at The Oasis, are able to be applied with haste. As effective as Yu’s film is in conveying its message, its true impact will best be measured in the next half decade.