Crude Independence is a documentary film about the heartland in the process of transplanting itself, and the new heart is pumping oil. In 2006, the United States Geological Survey estimated there to be more than 200 billion barrels of crude oil resting in a previously unreachable formation beneath western North Dakota. With the advent of new drilling technologies, oil companies from far and wide descended on small towns across the state with men and machinery in tow. Director Noah Hutton takes us to the town of Stanley (population 1300), sitting atop the largest oil discovery in the history of the North American continent, and captures the change wrought by the unprecedented boom in the years since the discovery. Through revealing interviews and breathtaking imagery of the northern plains, Crude Independence is a rumination on the future of small town America: a tale of change at the hands of the global energy market and America's unyielding thirst for oil.
The film was an official selection at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival and won the Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2009 Oxford Film Festival.
DVD includes a twenty minute behind-the-scenes piece featuring interviews with director Noah Hutton and co-editor Alex Footman, as well as director's commentary and the original theatrical trailer.
Crude Independence is a documentary about Stanley, a small town in North Dakota that receives a complete transformation when it is discovered that 200 billion barrels of oil lie underneath it. The film is told only from the perspective of the residents and the roughnecks who came to the town to drill.
I was anticipating there to be some kind of slant, likely against the giant oil companies coming in and harvesting oil. And when I didn't get that, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed. However, first time director Noah Hutton explained that he purposefully didn't use narration and let the town tell its own story. Once I realized this was the case and that it wasn't his intention to make anyone look like the bad guy, it actually changed my perspective of the film.
I began to appreciate the story that was woven from footage and interviews taken last summer. The glimpses of Americana in this film are very touching. This film gets the chance to answer a very interesting question- what happens in the modern age when someone strikes oil on their property? The results range from one gentleman that is thinking of going elk hunting, a childhood dream, to another interviewee who has hand built his own mansion, complete with an indoor waterfall.
In a day and age when every documentary that releases has some sort of slant, it is refreshing to see one borne only out of its subjects. I know that with any editing process there is an argument being made. But Crude Independence manages to straddle that line better than any film in recent memory. I am confident that of all the independent features and documentaries I have seen at SXSW 2009, you are likely to have the best chance of seeing this one at a theater near you. --Media Breach 2009 SXSW Review