WASHINGTON - About 40 people gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington to watch and discuss "Oil on Ice," an hourlong political documentary about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and why, in the view of the film producers and most people they featured, its oil would be better left in the ground.
The show was one of about 1,500 staged in homes and other venues around the nation in the week leading up to last week's vote on oil drilling in the U.S. Senate.
The effort didn't quite succeed, as the vote went 49-51 against those who would leave the refuge untouched.
The DVD that carries the documentary features tips for newly inspired activists and makes instantaneous reaction possible with live links to the Web.
Sierra Club Productions distributed the film. During the showing, the audience murmured appreciatively for prancing caribou calves and panoramic vistas.
They laughed in disbelief at footage of former U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski holding up a blank posterboard and asserting that "this is what it looks like - don't be misinformed."
Afterward, most of those attending wanted to focus on ways to avoid using ANWR's oil. The group, which meets every two weeks and dubs itself the "hUUmanists" in a nod to the church's title, has clear liberal leanings, according to event organizer Laura Dely. The conversation quickly settled on the group's perceived need to improve vehicle mileage standards, a subject given extensive treatment in the film as an alternative to new drilling.
Lance Haworth, coordinator of the discussion group, said the government should crank up the efficiency standards for vehicle manufacturers.
"You don't get there by the free market, and unfortunately that's antithetical to many people in this country," he said.
Bob Waters wasn't so sure, though.
"I think the problem is going to correct itself eventually," he said. With gasoline heading toward $4 a gallon, by some predictions, "people are going to want to drive more efficient cars."
Most voices in "Oil on Ice," say they value ANWR more for its other qualities. The filmmakers create a Michael Moore-esque moment in a brief encounter between Robert Thompson of Kaktovik and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens outside the Capitol.
"Good, here to help us on ANWR, I hope," Stevens says after an introduction.
"Well, actually I'm opposing development," Thompson says.
Stevens looks around at the camera and crew, gives Thompson's arm a tap and asks, "You want to give back your permanent fund?" before walking off.
"What? Ah, no, but I want to keep hunting and doing what I've been doing there," Thompson says to Stevens' back.
Co-producer Dale Djerassi dedicated the film to the memory of Celia Hunter, and he closes with a scene in which Hunter talks of the spiritual value of open land and its importance to the planet's environment.
"We are getting closer to the brink," she says, "and if we push it over the edge, it will be on our heads."
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