A wakeup call

Perhaps one of the most overlooked perspectives was the first-hand experiences of individuals directly affected by the oil industry, particularly those in countries such as Pakistan – which, just last year, in 2022 – experienced six months of unprecedented floods, leaving almost 21 million people in need of urgent humanitarian care, according to UNICEF. 

Tessa Khan, an environmental lawyer based in the UK, briefly mentioned Pakistan and the need for climate reparations – but I’d love to have seen that explored more deeply. 

The documentary primarily showcases the perspective of academics, prominent economists and experts in their respective fields, providing rational analyses of the issue. While their insights are valuable, I can’t help but feel that the film somewhat lacks a human and emotional connection. 


It would have been enriching to include the first-hand experiences of individuals who have been directly impacted by the oil industry, such as those who struggled to heat their homes this winter or faced difficulties affording proper meals.

The lack of personal narrative gave me the feeling that something was missing, something that would allow viewers to connect with the real-life consequences of our reliance on oil – which would have complemented the more logical analysis presented by experts.   

Another overlooked aspect was the ecological impact. Our perception of the industry often tends to be primarily human-centric, focusing on its role in global warming and the potential threat it poses on our own existence. 

The North Sea is teaming with diverse marine life. Without considering the profound consequences of drilling and potential oil spills has on its fragile ecosystem, we miss out on the true extent of damage caused by the oil industry.  


This doesn’t make The Oil Machine any less valid. In fact, I think it truly serves as a wakeup call. 

Ann Pettifor, who will be speaking at SMALL IS THE FUTURE on June 17, accurately describes the need for urgent action: “If we were about to be hit by a meteorite, the government would do everything possible to prevent that happening.

“It wouldn’t say, let’s wait for the private sector to come up with a plan and a managed transition towards the moment of impact. We can’t rely on self-serving, capital gains making shareholders and oil companies for that transition.”

In its entirety the documentary serves an illuminating exploration of the underlying complexities that impede our progress towards a much-needed transition towards renewable energy sources. 

It’s very much a gloomy snapshot of our current political, economic and social dependency on oil. It does leave me pondering the true extent of the changes and sacrifices humanity must make to break free from the clutches of this destructive cycle.

This Author  

Yasmin Dahnonun is the assistant editor of The Ecologist. The Oil Machine will be screened alongside Offshore on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at the Paintworks in Bristol. Get your Cinema Climatic tickets now.


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