Fort Mac
And The Beast

May 3, 2016. The biggest catastrophe in Canadian history hits Fort McMurray, the country’s treasure chest and the world’s third-largest oil reserve. Firefighters call it 'The Beast'. It was time for me to return to the city where I’d spent three winters.

A speedoc by

David Dufresne

funded by you

You’ve arrived. Take your time and your headphone.
And scroll down.

June 2016, after the passage of The Beast.

June 10, 2016.
Residents trickle back. They discover the ruins and the fire’s legacy of toxic ash, fine particulate matter, and heavy metals (arsenic, lead, copper, zinc, chrome). Some homes, though intact, have been declared unsafe for habitation.

Jim Rogers, former trapper. 2012
In June 2016. Over the years, Jim has become a friend, an accomplice, the voice of reason.

Three days before the Beast

Above the Fuel restaurant, on Highway 63.

The damage

10% of the town razed

2,400 structures damaged or destroyed

589,552 hectares up in smoke

88,000 evacuees


72% increase in demand at food banks since the residents’ return

30 million barrels of lost oilsands production during The Beast’s rampage

1.5 billion Canadian dollars: estimated loss to oil companies

Cover these ashes, that we cannot bear to see

June 2016. Fort McMurray is swarming with private security guards. The same ones who usually keep the oil sands under lock and key, turning away visitors at Suncor, Shell, Total, and Syncrude. Similar restrictions apply at the evacuee reception centres. Officially, to protect the privacy of evacuees – a legitimate concern. Unofficially, to hide the anger and the tears. Over insurers balking at claims, or authorities accused of having responded too little, too late.

A winter evening in Fort McMurray, 2012.
An afternoon of much-anticipated rain, June 2016.

In the ruins

A crew of residents gets busy. Most are volunteers; some are paid $25 an hour. They sift through the rubble for the few mementos that weren’t incinerated. Silent, purposeful silhouettes, smiling at each other. An unfamiliar flag flies overhead, that of Team Rubicon: a new kind of NGO, founded by American veterans.

A tent-filled parking lot. And fridges by the hundreds. A month of rotting food – and, in some cases, smoke – have made the refrigerators in town unusable. Pickup trucks pull up one after the other as people come get their new models.

Dr. John O'Connor, 2012.
And again, in 2016. He’s the one who raised the alarm about the high rate of rare cancers in First Nations communities north of Fort Mac.

John O’Connor, following his return. June 12, 2016.


Speed doc filmed and directed by David Dufresne between June 10 and 29, 2016, with the steadfast support of Anita Hugi (Narrative Boutique) and of the maestros at AKFN (design and development, Montreal)

In-kind donors, without whom none of this would have been possible:

AKFN : design and development
Urbania Media (ex-Toxa) : 2011-2015 archives
Visions Carto and Philippe Rivière: animated map of The Beast

Images 2011-2015: Philippe Brault
Editing: Jean-Guillaume Bastien
Music: DJ Toty
Audio mix: Jean-Olivier Begin
Colour: Nugroho Vinna & BuckCréatifs
Translation: Helge Dascher


Cash donors, who have made this adventure so crazy and so concrete, and to whom we owe a thousand thanks:

Alexandre Boucherot
Alice Geraud
Anita Hugi
Benjamin Hoguet
Benjamin Keltz
Benoit Mamet
Cedric Chaperon
Clara Beaudoux
Claudie Gravel
Damien Morel Darleux
Dominique Willieme
Eric Butticaz
Fil Up
Florent Latrive
Florent Maurin
Gregory Trowbridge
Hélène Rival
Helene Obissier
Indiana Aubenque
Jacques Dufresne
Jennifer Alleyn
Julien Goetz
Laura Foucault
Christian Laurain
Laurent K
Laurent Mauriac
Olivier Gendrin
Lise Fauchereau
Lucien Allen
Margaux Hennion
Marianne Lévy-Leblond
Marie Eve Dufresne
Martin Viau
Mathieu Drouet
Mickael Renard
Mireille Paolini
Mathieu Triclot
Nicolas Bole
Nicole Brodeur
Olivier Mevel
Patrice Gouin
Patrick Oberli
Philippe Brault
Philippe Lamarre
Renaud Besnard
Sébastien Delahaye
Silvere Mercier
Simon Gouin
Sofi Vaillant
Souen Boniface
Sylvaine Derivieres
Mathias Cantero
Veronique Lesayec
Xavier Seignard

Crowdfunding platform: Ulule


© Complete Control & Narrative Boutique, 2016

Fort McMoney, a long-term adventure

It all began in 2011. The discovery of the city, its residents, the money at every corner, the Gotham-style factories and the Notre-Dame of Pollution, this global village, symbol of a globalized world, reflection of our choices.

Originally, Fort McMurray was going to be the backdrop for a documentary game, Fort McMoney. Then came a film, with Jim Rogers as the common thread, along with madcap laughter. After, there was a book. And now this, a wild and furiously independent longform documentary, an adventure undertaken with you, funded 100% by you, a shared journey, shot live, to be defined, a speed doc or whatever you want to call it. Because the web is the place for emergencies, and also for memory and the long term.

Fort McMoney: the collection

Discover or replay the documentary game (2013, Toxa/Arte/ONF NFB

The film version (2015, Toxa/Arte/ONF NFB)

A speed doc (2016, self-produced and crowd-funded)

Collective work (published by Lux éditeur, 2015) by Naomi Klein, Nancy Huston, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Rudy Wiebe et David Dufresne