Sunday, July 23, 2006

Who Killed the Objective Documentary Film?

Who Killed the Electric Car? is Hollywood's latest conspir-u-mentary film, narrated by one-time Toyota spokesvoice and conspiracy monger Martin Sheen, that purports to tells us the story behind why General Motors abandoned its all-electric EV-1 passenger vehicle.

I don't plan to buy a ticket to see the film, but as the movie's website makes clear, the answer is to found in a Casablancian round-up of the usual "suspects" (their word), specifically the interlocking interests of the automobile and petroleum industries, and the "petro-politicians that love them."

Amidst the spate of one-sided, feature-length documentaries of late, a better question to ask might be: whatever happened to the objective documentary? Even possessed of a point of view, shouldn't a documentary filmmaker distinguish himself from a pure propagandist by the fair representation of dissenting opinions?

Unfortunately, excluded from the WKtEC narrative are people involved with the development of electric vehicles, such as Dave Wassmann, who do offer cogent explanations of the myriad difficulties GM faced on the EV's road to commercial viability.

As the AutoChannel's Steve Purdy noted following a screening of the movie in the motor city:
The movie’s researcher, Roger Gibbs, tried to answer a question from the audience after the show about why no one is building an electric car now if it is really as viable as the movie implies. “Well,” he says, “that’s one of the reasons we’re here in Detroit and one of the reasons we made the movie.” His implication was that a practical electric vehicle could easily be built today if anyone had the courage to build one.
Perhaps these questions are better asked of electronics giant Sony, whose Sony Pictures Classics distributes the film, evidently believing that, at least for the time being, charging $9.00 a ticket to see a movie decrying the nefarious demise of "the electric car" is more profitable than, say, actually bringing one to the market.

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