Sacrificial Slope

Joe Brown is just waiting to get sued. Not that it's a sure thing, "but it doesn't mean they wouldn't try," he quips about the oil and energy industry apparatchiks who take a critical — albeit subtle — lashing in his new documentary, National Sacrifice Zone: Colorado and the Cost of Energy Independence. They simply wouldn't have a case. Because while the film's title — which hints that Colorado's Western Slope might someday be so contaminated and depleted as to be declared worthless by the federal government — may be a bit overweening, the film itself does not fulminate.

What it does is bring to question the repeated efforts (by Exxon, Shell, Presco and even the U.S. government) over the past century to extract oil shale and natural gas from rural Colorado areas, as well as highlight the brackish taste left in the mouths of affected communities concerned about the environmental and health factors. Brown (with the help of videographer Peter Moore) also connects the whole debate to a larger discussion of peak oil, conservation and the futility of fossil fuels to realistically support future energy consumption.

"The big thing" for Coloradans, according to Brown, "is that there's a disconnect between the Western Slope and the Front Range. People on the Front Range — even if they're reading the newspapers — probably don't know very much about what's going on. I hope the film is a rallying point and gets people thinking about personal actions and incorporating conservation into their own lives."

The film screens tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue. Tickets are $5, and doors open at 6 p.m. for a discussion and meet-and-greet with Brown. Get more information at or by calling the Oriental at 303-455-2124.