White Water, Black Gold
White Water, Black Gold
White Water, Black Gold
Item#: WHI-985
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Running Time: 57 minutes
+ 83 Minutes on one Disk
Grades 7-Adult
Scene Selection • Closed Captioned
A film by David Lavallee


"Highly Recommended. The visual juxtaposition between pristine headwaters and heavy oil development (think tailings ponds filled with toxic slime) is simply jarring, as is the irony that the development and use of this heavy oil is fueling global warming, which may ultimately choke off the very supply of water that is required to make it. But the human juxtaposition of the angry citizens of Fort Chippewan and Suncor employees is even more telling."
-Green Teacher

"Highly Recommended. White Water Black Gold sends a strong message about the current and potential future impacts of oil sands mining on land, water, and wildlife resources. The question remains: “Now that public opinion is shifting against tar sands will Canadians bridge the gap between white water and black gold?”
- Educational Media Reviews Online

"Eye-opening... Lavallee interviews geologists, environmentalists, and others to document evidence of global warming. The filmmaker also speaks to scientists who worry about the amount of water needed to flush oil from the ground and the toxic wastes that pollute ponds and rivers. The contrast between formerly pristine waters and polluted waterways makes a convincing case for exploring sources of alternative fuels in this call for action."
- Booklist (American Library Association)

"Recommended for every audience. Highlight(s) the environmental price North Americans pay for domestic oil production. A strong case for public awareness, change in government priorities, and more effective oversight of oil corporations."
- Library Journal

"White Water, Black Gold is another haunting reminder of the incredibly high price of our modern energy-intensive way of life. The harnessing of fossil fuel energy sources has brought untold prosperity and comfort to many, but it has also brought profound costs."
–Anthropology Review Database

"Highlights the indescribable beauty of the region and how it is being threatened by industry and carelessness."
- Earth Times

"Narrated by American actor Peter Coyote, the film follows Lavallee down the Athabasca River and across Western Canada as he examines the relationship between water and oil. In a unique narrative device, the film traces the paths of both an imaginary drop of water and drop of oil while investigating what threats the oilsands project may have on the third largest watershed in the world."
– Calgary Herald


Best Canadian Film Award,Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival
Platinum Documentary Award Winner, Oregon Film Awards
John Muir Award, Yosemite Film Festival

Official Selection
-DocUtah Film Festival, 2012
-Durango International Film Festival, 2012
-Tyrolean Independent Film Festival, Innusbruck, 2012
-Wild and Scenic Film Festival
-Projecting Change Film Festival
-Tipping Man Film Festival
-Planet in Focus Film Festival
-World Community Film Festival



All prices include DVD and PPR

Public Libraries - Circulation Only: $39
K-12 Schools, Public Libraries, & Non-Profits: $89
Colleges, Institutions, & Businesses: $195
Colleges, Institutions, & Businesses (with DSL): $495

(GROUP & COMMUNITY SCREENINGS: For license to screen the film in group or community settings, please click here.)

Narrated by Peter Coyote

Canada is the number one foreign supplier of oil to the United States, a fact little known in America. Most of the oil imported comes from the Tar Sands of Northern Alberta, the second largest known oil reserve in the world outside of Saudi Arabia.

But this is not a traditional oil field. The oil must be extracted and processed from the sands at a significant environmental cost -- requiring huge quantities of a diminishing fresh water supply and large amounts of energy that contribute to global warming.

White Water, Black Gold follows David Lavallee on his three-year journey across Western Canada in search of the truth about the impact of the world’s thirstiest and dirtiest oil industry. This is a journey of jarring contrasts, from the pristine mountain ice fields that are the source of the industry’s water, to the Tar Sands tailing ponds, where thousands of migrating birds have unwittingly landed and died.

Both government and industry spokespeople deny any cause for concern, but in the course of his journey Lavallee, backed by university scientists, makes a number of discoveries that challenge that assessment and raise serious concerns for Canada and the United States.

Native peoples living downstream are contracting unusual cancers; new science shows that water resources in an era of climate change will be increasingly scarce; the proposed upgrading of the oilfields could endanger multiple river systems across Canada that makeup about half of its water supply; and a planned oil pipeline across British Columbia brings fresh threats to rivers, salmon and the Pacific Ocean.

White Water, Black Gold is a sober look at the untold costs associated with developing this major oil deposit, and raises important questions about how much environmental damage we’re willing to tolerate to feed our oil appetite.

• Includes 17 pg Classroom Study Guide