“Fuel” Sparks Change

Greenlight Theatrical


This is the substance we as a nation are addicted to. We’ve even started a war over it. Josh Tickell does an amazing job at illustrating this in his documentary “Fuel.”

The documentary has won various film awards but most notably, one at the Sundance Film Festival for the Best Documentary Audience Award in 2008.

The introduction was genius.

Tickell drove to different fast food restaurants trying to collect their used vegetable oils. It was an automatic question-raiser – Why was he asking for used vegetable oil? To fuel his biodiesel powered “Veggie Van.” It was a great attention grabber and then he moved to the actual point of the documentary.

The documentary does a lot of things. It promotes the use of biodiesel fuels and electric cars. Furthermore, it goes into the consequences we’re going to face once we run out of oil. More importantly, it explains how this will affect the environment. The documentary doesn’t do this like a classic, boring science movie, but has emotional elements that captivate the audience and force you to form a connection to Tickell.

From there we see the story of Tickell and why he cares so much about the environment and gasoline issues. In order to gain said connection with Tickell as the narrator, it was necessary to hear part of his life in the documentary. He left Australia as a child to move to New Orleans where his mother’s family was originally from.

He came back to a place where there was no land for him and his brother to play on and they lived down the street from oil producing companies. As we find out quickly, New Orleans is one of the largest oil producers in the country. These companies were affecting not only the environment but the area in which they resided has been given the nickname “Cancer Alley” because of all the biological effects the plants have had on the people living in the area. His own mother has had nine miscarriages.

This led to Tickell’s eventual road trip in 1997 with his “Veggie Van,” and he began filming “Fuel.”

Tickell has quite a few monologues in the beginning to share his personal story, which some would view as boring, but because the camera did not just focus on him speaking it was easy to keep the audience’s attention. The camera panned to different animations and photos regarding all the topics he spoke about. They ranged anywhere from pictures of his childhood and college years to video clips of media footage. One could argue that this would be even more distracting and would take away from what Tickell was actually saying, but it only added to the tone and depth of the film.

The film seemed to run a little long. It’s only logged at a little under two hours but toward the end it felt like it was going onto three instead. Some of the more repetitive cinematography could’ve been cut to stop wandering minds and it still would’ve had the same dizzying effects on viewers. It gave a real sense of urgency for the actions that we need to take, such as changing over to biodiesel fueled vehicles (or the Algaeus, a car they developed that’s the first electric hybrid that’s powered by algae fuel!), carpooling, taking public transportation, and anything we can do to help the environment.

With stars and starlets such as Woody Harrelson and Julia Roberts to aid his campaign against gasoline, Tickell definitely has a one up on the competition to get the attention of the country and what it’s in for in coming years.

Tickell and crew plan to do college tours around the country and are making a suitable green curriculum for students. They will feature a free 35 minute clip of “Fuel,” as a classroom aid.

Click to watch the trailer for Fuel.

Liz Cross

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