There is nothing dry about Last Call at the Oasis, Jessica Yu's engaging, informative and fast-flowing documentary exploring the global water crisis. It's one of the best in a recent array of cinematic docs looking at such hot topics as oil, water, food production, climate change, the economy and telling us, as scientist Jay Famiglietti so succinctly puts it in Yu's film, "We're screwed."
But that doesn't mean we can't be entertained as we're discovering why. Last Call opens with a montage of waterfalls, peaceful lakes and kids frolicking in backyard swimming pools while legal consultant Erin Brockovich (featured in the film still fighting the good fight) matter-of-factly states that the crisis is not around the bend but happening now.
That mingling of pleasure (gorgeous cinematography and graphics, a killer soundtrack, flashes of humour including an appearance by Jack Black) and horror (a steady stream of well-placed stats and news clips showing drought, fire, flooding around the globe) keeps us riveted. Yu tracks several individual stories illustrating major regional issues in the United States (looming shortages in Las Vegas, toxic runoff in Michigan, etc.), weaving in a few well-chosen experts, including author Alex Prud'homme, whose The Ripple Effect inspired the film.
While aimed at U.S. audiences, the film also includes stories from Australia (the ravages of prolonged drought), Asia, South America and, most interestingly, the Middle East, where a water shortage in one region is making allies of political foes.
The various water issues may be old news to many viewers, but Yu pulls them all together in refreshing, thought-provoking fashion.
Last Call at the Oasis opens Friday at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto, and other Canadian cities throughout the spring and summer.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Last Call at the Oasis
- Directed by Jessica Yu
- Classification: PG
- 3 stars