The animated film Bigfoot Family has come under fire in Canada – but not because of its stilted dialogue or confusing plot.
Instead, a government-funded lobbying group has targeted the movie – a fantasy epic featuring a human family whose father is Bigfoot – on the grounds that it “peddles lies” about the oil and gas industry.
The Netflix film, panned by critics, centres on an energy company’s nefarious scheme to detonate a bomb in a pristine Alaska valley to flood it with crude oil.
Although the film is set in the US, the Canadian Energy Centre, funded by the province of Alberta, has launched a campaign against the movie, which it says “brainwashes” children with “anti-oil and gas propaganda”.
“Our children are the key to the future – but they can’t succeed if they’re filled with misinformation,” the centre said, claiming that more than 1,000 people have already emailed Netflix over the film. The streaming giant did not return a request for comment.
Created in 2019 by the governing United Conservatives party, Alberta’s “energy war room” is tasked with combating negative portrayals of the province’s energy sector as it comes under scrutiny for its high emissions and environmental degradation.
The centre was initially given an annual operating budget of C$30m ($24m), but a strain on the province’s finances during the coronavirus pandemic reduced its budget to C$12m.
In addition to targeting cryptozoological children’s films, the centre has taken issue with how journalists report on the province’s energy industry. In recent months, the province embarked on a controversial set of hearings, at a cost of C$3.5m, to investigate allegations – so far-unfounded – that criticism of the energy industry was spurred by “foreign-funded special interests”.
The centre’s criticism of Bigfoot Family centres on a plot to blow up a valley in Alaska to release its oil. “It villainizes energy workers and disparages the industry’s record on and commitment to environmental protection,” said Tom Olsen, head of the Canadian Energy Centre, in a statement emailed to media outlets.
But historians pointed out that – despite appearing in a film about a mythical creature – the bomb storyline wasn’t too far removed from reality.
In the 1950s, the government of Alberta approved a project to detonate a 9-kiloton nuclear device near the town of Fort McMurray as a way of releasing oil from subterranean bitumen. Originally dubbed “Project Cauldron” and then rebranded less ominously as “Project Oilsand”, the plan was cancelled in 1962 when the federal government joined a ban on nuclear testing.