Escarpment Blues
Directed by: Andy Keen
(Universal)
Too short to resonate as a music doc and too long to be an effective ecology lesson, Andy Keen’s Escarpment Blues—following Sarah Harmer and her band/hiking team on a literal and musical tour of Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment region in the summer of 2005—feels instead like a particularly hip episode of The Nature of Things. The affable, whip-smart Harmer makes for a fetching guide to the situation—a huge company plans to mine gravel from the escarpment, which would wreck a number of ecosystems—but her environmental sermons, facts and declarations delivered from cars and the floor of the forest, grow tiresome in between often electrifying chunks of acoustic performance, mostly of I’m a Mountain tracks. It’s frustrating because the soundtrack is stellar; the lush forest, craggy rocks and colourful creatures the group encounters make for fantastic visuals and the I Love the Escarpment Tour provides a natural timeline, yet as a film the whole enterprise feels undercooked. Perhaps it’s because Issue Documentaries have to be monumental and controversial these days to make an impact, and the big fuck-you to the Man never comes. But there is the music, strong and sweet, apt and iconic, a condemnation sung rather than spoken, able to expand a mind in 50 minutes less than this film ever could.
—Tara Thorne

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