DocTalk: Who Killed the Electric Car

Who Killed the Electric Car, directed by Chris Pane, informs viewers on the “murder” of the electric car in California. The documentary goes on to list off the suspects for the murder, which among others included the consumers, batteries, oil companies, and government. Like any other murder case, it provides evidence for each of the listed suspects.

The film plays out like a long news report. Facts were being reported, but there was no vehicle through which the issues and why they’re important were represented. Before it immersed itself fully into this reporting mode, it advertised the EV1 with interviews from users, including Mel Gibson.

The car was portrayed in an almost flawless light. The benefits of the vehicle were listed off, and different commercial-style videos of the car were shown. Their camera angles, music, and video montages showed the attractive qualities of the EV1. They do make the viewers realize that the car would be a great option for consumers if it were still permitted on the roads.

Supporters even go so far to fuel the idea that there has been a “murder” that there is a staged funeral for the car. The way the supporters talk about and act to revive the car emphasizes their passion. The previous drivers of EV1 cars are even shown getting arrested for their demonstrations against General Motors.

While there are certainly reasons for caring about this particular issue, the documentary does not fully address all of them in a way that would be compelling to the viewers. What is missing is a reason to truly empathize. The film does a good job demonstrating why an electric car is a great environmentally friendly option for consumers. However, it over dramatizes the situation and the sentiments of the previous EV1 drivers; they speak of the car almost as if it’s a person.

Most of the film feels like a long report about the facts with a dramatization of the issue. While informative, the film doesn’t really interpret enough to make the viewers feel for the issue. A more concentrated segment on environmental issues or something to that effect could have aided in this. 

The film ends on a more optimistic note that leaves the viewers to believe that the environmental efforts will help preserve the Earth and our resources. However, it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the film. This was different than the overall tone of the film; the end is very suddenly optimistic while most of the film, the consumers are upset and searching for answers.

Although this film would not come to mind when asked for a recommendation, Who Killed the Electric Car addresses an overlooked issue in an interesting light. By using  the scheme of a case investigation and going through each individual suspect, the viewers get the opportunity to see many sides of the story. 

by Tiffany Truong

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