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Limit is the Sky

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Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Julia Ivanova, this nuanced and intimate feature-length documentary explores the lives of a diverse group of young dreamers whose search for money, meaning and identity leads them to a remote town in Northern Canada: Fort McMurray, the capital city of the world’s third-largest oil reserves.

Limit is the Sky (Trailer) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

Shot over several years, Limit Is the Sky follows the hopeful young workers as they do their best to join the ranks of the highly paid oil-field labourers who’ve made Fort Mac a boomtown. But when the boomtown goes bust, thanks to plummeting oil prices, and a massive wildfire threatens the very existence of the town, these “gold-collar workers” find themselves in an unexpectedly tough spot.

The film follows Max, a Lebanese barber; KingDeng, a Sudanese rapper; Sable, a determined, hard-working beauty from Edmonton; Patrick, a would-be Hollywood screenwriter; Mucharata, an unstoppable nanny-turned-heavy-haul-driver from the Philippines; and Andrew, an altruistic mechanic, as they try to jump-start their adult lives in the only place on Earth where truck drivers make $250,000 a year. But the lucrative oil-patch jobs prove harder to nab than expected; and when the bottom falls out of the oil market, each character finds him- or herself suddenly stranded at a precipice where once lay the path of their now disrupted plans.

Their desires and drives drastically vary in magnitude: from building a fashion empire in the Philippines to living up to the conservative values of a Lebanese father; from sharing a history as a Sudanese war-child through rap to feeding the Canadian poor. While Max, Sable, Andrew, Patrick, KingDeng and Mucharata intensely try to catch the golden bird of fortune by its tail, destiny conspires against their plans. An anti-pipeline movement grows in Canada and the US; celebrities bash the global environmental impact of the oil sands; and finally, the world’s oil prices experience a phenomenal collapse. Seemingly out of the blue, Fort McMurray is turned upside down by the dwindling oil industry.

And yet this group are still only in their twenties or early thirties, and their experiences in the oil sands are just early chapters in lives they are determined to build on their own terms. They came to Northern Alberta looking for money, but instead they found themselves. And now, after several years of striving, their time in the oil sands is up. What they leave behind in the devastated landscape of the Canadian North, however, will endure for a long time to come, even as the threat of catastrophic wildfire looms on the horizon.

Limit Is the Sky approaches global issues—economic woes, environmental exploitation, the difficulties faced by newly arrived immigrants and refugees—from a uniquely human perspective. This sextet of characters, and the wildly varying dozens who surround them, find in the oil sands a testing ground for both their strengths and weaknesses, and the crucible within which their future selves will be forged.


Friday, April 28th , 7 PM at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts in Fort MacMurray – free!

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