Thursday, August 31, 2006

urban myths, apochryphal tales and plain simple truth

Ever heard the one about the inventor who reinvented the lightbulb, sold the idea to a big maufacturer imagining that human life would be forever better only to see it filed away into oblivion? Ever doubted that large corporations really do have totally evil, unethical and hidden strategies?

Who killed the electric car? shows just how this little trick works in practice. It is a very depressing look at how corporate self interest and political corruption put paid to a perfectly viable, no emission, alternative to the cars we still drive today. GM and the California Air Resource Bureau (CARB) have a lot to answer for.

The film uses a low key slow burner approach to audience engagement and has scored some good interviews in particular with people who were intimately involved with the development of the EV programme at GM. They describe their first hand experience of how the company at once seemed to commit to the project while at the same time working to ensure that it would eventually be mothballed and the cars completely removed from circulation. People who come out looking particularly bad include the then president of CARB, whose conflict of interests is laid bare towards the end, and the oil industry lobbyist who lies directly to camera in a flurry of blinking about the supposed non-viability of electric cars as they were - not to mention the Bush administration.

This film is depressing and enraging at the same time. The interviews are skillfully edited amd interwoven. Californian consumers' frustration is made explicit - they wanted to buy the cars but the company that made them did not want to sell them and sabotaged the very sales and marketing campaigns they themselves had instituted.

The NZ film festival docos have been full of venom and rage this year - aimed at big business, corrupt governement and obstructive media. This is a fine example of the truth skillfully laid bare for all to see once more.

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