DOXA 2017: Limit is the Sky

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Limit is the Sky | Directed by Julia Ivanova | DOXA Documentary Film Festival | Screens May 5 and 14, 2017

We’ve all heard about the abundance of oil and money in Northern Alberta. But what is Fort McMurray really like? What do the day to day lives of its citizens look like? Fort McMoney, as it’s affectionately and derisively known, is home to a diverse cast of characters. We are let into the lives of a Lebanese Barber, a Filipino truck driver/wedding show producer, a Sudanese rapper, and a few born-and-raised locals.

The city is full of dreamers who think that if they can just get a job “on site” and work for a few years in the oil sands they will be set for life. Perhaps they can take that money and pursue their true passions. But it quickly becomes clear to most people in this film that money doesn’t buy happiness. Many will give up on the dream and move elsewhere, while others will continue to press on.

What was striking about many of the local hangouts in the city was the unbalanced gender ratio. Bars and nightclubs are full of male oil sands workers with more money than they know what to do with. We’re told that the average age in Fort McMurray is 30, and the average income is $190,000. It is a place of extremes: extreme weather, extreme wealth and poverty, and extreme dreams.

Most are happy to ride out the boom until it stops, urging everyone to come and take advantage of the abundance before it all ends. Most interviewees also echoed that sentiment — that it would all be coming to an end at some point. And they were right. The final moments of the film show us the end of this boom town as the oil market goes bust and people struggle to figure out what to do next.

This is the human story behind the usual hype around Fort McMurray, and it is an important document to capture this place and time for posterity.

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