Last Call at the Oasis is a documentary film made in 2011 that was directed and written by Jessicu Yu and features Erin Brockovich, Robert Glennon and Jay Famiglietti, among others. Additional cast members include Tim Barnett, Gina Gallego, Jack Black and Peter H. Gleick. This film was produced by Participant Media, which is a production company that focuses on being politically active. Other films from this company include Food Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth. This film is organized by place, and at each new place, such as Los Angelos, Las Vegas or Australia, there is new people with new stories. The film also travels with Erin Brockovich, an environmental activist, for some scenes and documents her effort to create environmental change, specifically her efforts to stop companies from polluting water with chemicals that is harming residents in small town areas. Additionally, this film features a somewhat humorous campaign for selling bottled renewed (sewage) water, as well as a bit from people bathing in holy water in “The Promised Land”. This film is an expository film, because it exemplifies a classic documentary. While being entertaining, it has an educational feel, and employs the use of talking head interviews, footage, and narration.
I think the thesis of this film is the earth’s water is running out, and it is up to everyone to find new ways to recycle and conserve it if we want to sustain this population on Earth. Many people believe that the Earth can never run out of water, but that is extremely false. Most people do not even realize we are in a water shortage crisis. Breaking the film up into different locations because besides keeping the film organized, it helped the viewers personalize the story. Often people can think of climate change and water shortages as something that is happening far away, but by naming the towns where people were suffering the consequences of the global water shortage and water pollution, it made viewers realize these horrible things were happening in their own backyards. This film had many strengths which included good use of music, bringing in Erin Brockovich to give the film direction and a wide range of people, thus opinions, featured. Erin Brockovich gave viewers someone to rally behind, and she was factual while still remaining hopeful about the environment. The weaknesses of this film were some of the images and bits could be considered tacky. During some parts, it seemed confusing who the intended audience of this film was. The scenes with very emotional, difficult stories told by farmers, grandmothers and environmentalists- those seemed like scenes in a documentary intended for educated adults. However, the scene with the animated water droplets seemed intended for children. The film would have been better if its creators had picked an intended audience and stuck to that more strictly.
Despite its weaknesses, I really enjoyed this film. I felt it was extremely engaging while still being informative. I feel Last Call at the Oasis absolutely belongs in an environmental class. The film was educational, eye opening and made the current water crisis hard to ignore. My favorite part of the film was the scenes shot in Midland, Texas featuring the grandmother who after writing many letters to her senators about her granddaughter’s skin rashes she believed the water was causing and getting no response, took matters into her own hands and emailed Erin Brockovich. This woman is a great example of people taking charge and fighting back to protect themselves and their children from harmful chemicals in the water and the environment. If people keep fighting back, whether it be in a small town or big city, there will be change.
Written by Haley Brennan