As the trendy chic star-struck Toronto International Film Festival staggers toward obscurity and possibly oblivion, not least because “star struck” is literally true given the actors’ union strike and partial boycott of premieres, a virtue signal is sent up instead of the more appropriate distress flare. According to various news outlets, “A group of Canadian filmmakers have joined forces with Hollywood A-listers in asking the Toronto International Film Festival to end sponsorship ties with the Royal Bank of Canada because of the financial institution’s funding of the oil and gas industry.” We might spare a jeer for the Bank for thinking a bit of virtue-signaling of its own would make friends of its enemies, like the business about “Sustainability“ including the inevitable “net-zero future” and the snazzy shots of wind turbines and indigenous solar panels covered in… um… snow. Bit of cross-scripting there, RBC lads and lasses. But our main razz is for the “filmmakers and A-listers” whose own ties to oil and gas are as spectacular as they are obtuse.
No, we don’t mean they own shares in Exxon or Suncor. Although they might; once you get as rich as a “Hollywood A-lister” it’s hard to keep track of all your investments. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everything about them, from their careers to their clothing, depends utterly on fossil fuels.
No, really. We recognize that some actors aren’t good without a script, but we’re not into the “credentialism” business and if they want to use their wealth and position to advocate for causes, we’re happy to see them do it. Just as we’re happy to see regular folks join, say, the climate debate without having the sort of advanced degrees people like Al Gore, John Kerry and Greta Thunberg so conspicuously lack. Democracy depends on the intelligent engagement of informed citizens.
That said, we need to underline “intelligent” and “informed”. So here’s a documentary script for them that avoids obvious plot holes and dialogue absurdities. A courageous band of artist-activists cuts all links to fossil fuels. As in no gas or diesel cars or limousines, no flights, no yachts. No synthetic fibres or electronics. On their persons or on their sets.
No servers processing digital images using electricity from oil, gas or coal. And no audiences using these things to get to the theatres where their films are shown… and no fossil fuel use by the theatres either, to show the movies, cool the audience or heat the popcorn.
You have not seen that film, have you? And you’re not about to, because it couldn’t be made and if it were it couldn’t be shown. You couldn’t even feed the crew. In such a parallel fantasy universe there would be no film industry. No klieg lights, no runways, no air kissing and “darling”, no studied posing to reap the social and other rewards of your buffed and toned conscience. They’d all have real jobs digging potatoes or harvesting crickets or milking almond trees or some such. And we wouldn’t know their names.
According to the news, here are some of their names:
“Signatories to the group’s open letter to TIFF outlining its concerns include screen stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Joaquin Phoenix, alongside filmmakers and producers including Avi Lewis, Elza Kephart and Jose Luis Gutierrez.”
World-famous in Canada, that latter bunch. And of course once they get started, they can’t stop:
“The group’s statement says RBC is one of the largest financiers of oil and gas projects in the world and supports projects that have negatively impacted Indigenous lands and BIPOC groups.”
The bank might want to rethink its exquisitely progressive advertising. (Or alternatively its current offer of “Get iPad when you switch to RBC. Choose from 4 colours!” as alas those things reek of petroleum right down to the dye in those four colours!) But it’s the activists, even ones like Phoenix who have tactlessly mentioned their fellow activists’ penchant for private jets, who need to rethink their own use of fossil fuels before bringing down the festival.
Mark Ruffalo, for instance, in addition to being predictably pro-choice, anti-fracking, pro-Bernie Sanders, and anti-Israel, owns two New York apartments to which he does not commute the 115 miles from his 50-acre Catskills home complete with “eco-friendly guest house” by dog cart, we presume. Nor heat them with wind turbines.
So fine. You don’t like oil and gas. Don’t use it. Nice knowing you.