The Oil Machine
Our economic, historical and emotional entanglement with oil gets ever more complex as we hurtle towards climate catastrophe. Can we break our addiction?
Directed by Emma Davie
Produced by Sonja Henrici
Exec Producers: David Harron, Mark Thomas, James Marriott, Terry Macalister
Director of Photography: Julian Schwanitz
Editor: Martin Kayser Landwehr
Co-Editor: Emma Davie
Original Music: Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres
Re-Recording Mixer: John Cobban
A Sonja Henrici Creates Production
[Note: Community screenings of THE OIL MACHINE can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"Provocative and powerful...carries a potent and indispensable message for our times." Michael Watts, Prof. Emeritus, Geography, UC-Berkeley
The Oil Machine explores our economic, historical and emotional entanglement with oil by looking at the conflicting imperatives around North Sea oil. This invisible machine at the core of our economy and society now faces an uncertain future as activists and investors demand change. Is this the end of oil?
By highlighting the complexities of how oil is embedded in our society—from high finance to cheap consumer goods—The Oil Machine brings together a wide range of voices from oil company executives, economists, young activists, pension fund managers and considers how this machine can be tamed, dismantled, or repurposed.
We have five to ten years to control our oil addiction, and yet the licensing of new oil fields continues in direct contradiction with the Paris Climate Agreement. This documentary looks at how the drama of global climate action is playing out in the fight over North Sea oil.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2023
Copyright Date: 2022
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-98-4
"A brilliant forensic analysis...Reveals not just the wealth created and the environmental costs, but how radically oil shaped the British economy, the deep collusion between politics and oil firms, and the challenges and vulnerabilities of the entire fossil capitalist system. Crucially, the film offers up a magnificent panorama of different voices -- financiers, high school students, and activists -- who reveal the tensions, conflicts and raw power of the entire global oil and gas system, and the radical urgency of escaping our addiction to fossil fuels."
Michael Watts, Professor Emeritus of Geography, University of California-Berkeley, Author, The Curse of the Black Gold
"The sheer depth of explanation - from the role played by financial markets, to the real efficacy of certain techniques like carbon capture, to who really owns North Sea oil...made for a calm, informative, eye-opening experience."
David Pollock, The Courier
"This is a rich, visually-arresting narrative of the social and ecological trauma of North Sea oil. It provides us with an invaluable counter-history of the post-war UK life, one shaped by the political and economic drive for energy riches, whatever its consequences for communities, the climate, and future generations. The Oil Machine is essential viewing for anyone who cares about climate change and to putting an end to our oil obsession."
Imre Szeman, Founding Director, Institute for Environment, Conservation and Sustainability, Professor of Human Geography, University of Toronto Scarborough, Author, On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, and Energy
"Captivating...This film reveals the often hidden connections between the government, oil and gas producers, private and public investors and shareholders, and ordinary residents -- mutually codependent but also invariably and simultaneously benefitting from and being harmed by the continued, climate-wrecking extraction, refining, and burning of crude oil. The head-in-the-sand mentality of the interviewed oil and gas executives, bankers and petroleum engineers is more than matched by the persuasive conviction of kids and young activists that see nothing short of a redesign of our techno-economic system as the answer to this defining problem of our time."
Tanja Srebotnjak, Director, Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, Williams College
"We are indeed living within 'the oil machine,' not only through our use of oil and gas for fuels, but our increasing reliance on oil-based products... Clearly this cannot continue, and the only real choice is between making an alternative design or continuing on the present pathway of systemic collapse."
Chris Rhodes, Post Carbon Institute, Resilience
"The Oil Machine reveals in stunning imagery and trenchant commentary just how dangerous and irrational our collective addiction to oil is. This film is a valuable teaching tool to prepare the next generation of climate advocates and community activists for the battle to secure their future. There are many alternatives to an oil-soaked economy but only one livable planet."
Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law Emeritus, Senior Fellow for Climate Policy, Vermont Law and Graduate School
"From its eerie opening sequence of undulating North Sea kelp fields to its symphonic final climax, The Oil Machine never lets you rest. It unbalances the viewer who might have thought they knew the nature of offshore oil drilling and its consequences. Davie's film, with the eye of the auteur, takes us on a stunning cinematography journey through the uncanny aesthetics of oil and its operations."
Robert Johnson, Professor of History, National University, Author, Carbon Nation: Fossil Fuels in the Making of American Culture
"When you think 'petrostate,' you may think Saudi Arabia or Russia. You probably won't think of how North Sea oil has been shaping the British state since the days of Thatcher - until you watch The Oil Machine. The film also reminds us that oil is in our cars, our clothes, and our toys. The modern world is fossil fuels all the way down."
Noah Gordon, Acting Co-director of Sustainability, Climate, and Geopolitics Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"While protestors take ever more extreme actions and the government blithely ignores its own climate advisors to issue more drilling licenses, it's well worth reviewing the story of how we got here. The Oil Machine tells that story, of why we need to just stop oil, and why it's proving so hard to do."
Jeremy Williams, The Earthbound Report
"Thanks to its sheer pertinence, The Oil Machine is essential viewing for everyone from young students to governmental policymakers...It's mesmerizing in its delivery, making you rigid with worry and then alert with proactivity...Emma Davie's film is a call for drastic action regarding climate change."
Calum Russell, Far Out Magazine
"The experts in the film are powerful people we like to respect; bankers, lawyers, and even representatives from the oil companies themselves. I find their words unsettling. Apparently, oil has become such an intricate part of our daily lives that we can no longer imagine how we could possibly get out of it, and yet, we are heading for a grand disaster if we don't rethink our strategy."
Margareta Hruza, Modern Times Review
"Excellent...An urgent watch."
Upcoming On Screen
"In perhaps the most clever twist, investment bankers, BP representatives, and even the CEO of Oil and Gas UK are offered a sort of 'right of reply', an act which makes their patronizing waffle and corporate double-speak painfully transparent...Rather than focus on the well-known consequences of inaction, director Emma Davie takes a keener approach with The Oil Machine, asking who and what is standing in the way of necessary action."
Alasdair MacRae, UK Film Review
"The Oil Machine tackles a massive and pressing issue through various perspectives and really paints the whole picture."
"Right from the start its clear the film's mission is to explore the multitude of ways in which oil has seeped into our everyday lives, to such an extent that many of us longer even see it."
Jonathan Atkinson, Carbon Co-op
"A beautiful piece of work, hypnotic and mesmerizing and incredibly emotional - I learned so much from watching this."
Janice Forsyth, BBC Radio Scotland
"Timely...The varying perspectives from industry, activists, young people, journalists, economists, and scientists demonstrate the precipice this planet is on for sustainable life. I lead a nonprofit environmental law firm in Alaska where it is crystal clear that this power and money can't be, and never have been, worth the impact to local and marginalized communities, and the health of people and the planet."
Victoria Clark, Executive Director, Trustees for Alaska
"The Oil Machine illustrates the industrial and emotional vastness of petroleum across a web of supporters, objectors, and consumers. Through its visually compelling narrative, we learn of oil's immense footprint alongside its intergenerational significance: from popular toys and common household products to our climate-altered futures. This sweeping documentary balances an intellectual portrait of oil, including its natural origins and industrial scale of extraction, with an emotional depiction of the early excitement of discovery and offshore work. In the process of revealing the institutional and cultural threads that have enabled this machine to expand - despite climate change, we are asked to deliberate on whether the consequences of a changed climate are more frightening to us than the demise of a globally integrated industry."
Patricia Widener, Professor of Sociology, Florida Atlantic University, Author, Toxic and Intoxicating Oil and Oil
DVDs include public performance rights.
* SDH Captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
* Audio Description
* Scene Selection
The film's outstanding website, with 14 catch-up interviews with people in the film discussing global developments since the film's release, an extensive discussion guide, and a list of ongoing screenings around the world
Excellent discussion guide with Q&A questions
Awards and Festivals
Green Doc Award, Pordenone Docs Fest, Italy
International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
Central Scotland Documentary Festival
Human Rights Film Festival Berlin
One World Festival
Watch Docs, Warsaw
Seoul International Eco Film Festival
Crossroads Festival, Graz
Cinemare International Ocean Film Festival, Kiel
Green Film Festival of San Francisco
Inverness Film Festival
NI Science Film Festival
Hebrides International Film Festival
Gaseback Film Festival, Sweden
Marine Fest, Scotland
San Diego International Film Festival
Twin Cities Film Festival
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
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... more Reviews
"Stunning in its visuals, sweeping - and fair - in its coverage of this energy system's longstanding presence and hold over the people, The Oil Machine is at once highly educational for its appraisal of petroleum's many perspectives, lived experiences, and entanglements, and convicting for the way it highlights the existential crisis that carbon-fueled humanity now faces. In brilliant fashion, and with urgency and care, this must-see film shows how we got to our moment of dire reckoning with crude and the climate, and what needs to happen in order for us to realize - before time expires - a way of being beyond oil."
Darren Dochuk, Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, Author, Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America
"A valuable resource on the historical background as well as the environmental ramifications of oil drilling...A timely reminder for viewers to not only recognize the omnipresence of oil-based products but to also advocate for meaningful systemic changes."
Phuong Le, The Guardian