The Athabasca tar sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta, have seen a record population boom. Thousands of men and women have flocked to the city for work, all attracted by the promise of good jobs and a high salary. The weather is harsh and the social life sparse. Everyone must cope with the knowledge that many people worldwide, possibly even friends and family, object to what they do for a living. How do they cope? With karaoke of course! Oil Sands Karaoke profiles five Fort McMurray residents as they prepare for the big karaoke competition at the local pub, Bailey’s.
The five people that director Charles Wilkinson spotlights the diversity displayed within the people working in and around the sands. They include the cute, spunky yet diminutive Brandy, southern country rocker Dan, smooth and soulful Chad, goofy and awkward Jason, and Massey, or as he’s better known in female form, Iceis Rain. Of the 5, some have talent and have pursued music as a career in the past, some just need to get out and experience something not work related, and for Iceis, karaoke is more about making a statement about acceptance than the music itself. While Iceis may be the most unpolished singer of the bunch, her story ends up being the most fleshed out backstories throughout the film. alongside Brandy’s search for love and acceptance and Dan’s struggle with giving up his musical dreams to pay back his massive debts
From the public relations side of working the sands, Oil Sands Karaoke is a refreshing take that shows the audience a different side of the business in Fort McMurray. All of the employees highlighted enjoy their jobs, and while they acknowledge the environmental impact that this may have, they are quick to point out that they are merely small cogs in a big machine with people lined up to take over as soon as they leave.
It’s a fun film with some great music that humanizes the often vilified faces of the men and women working in the oil sands. Most of these people are just regular folk that you can bump into anywhere, and it’s great to see them get the spotlight for once. The audience should fall in love with the adorable Brandy, cheer for the determined Dan, swoon over the vocals of ‘The Chad’, laugh at Jason’s antic s and applaud the sincerity of Iceis. Most importantly, they’ll leave the theater with better understanding and a new vision of old ‘Fort Mac’.