Josh Fox takes an exciting new look at the hydraulic fracturing industry in his documentary “GasLand.” In this captivating film, Fox informs his audience of the dangers of hydro fracking through his own personal story and journey to uncover the truth. As he travels through the United States examining the mysterious natural gas industry, the viewer travels with him. The music, narration, and cinematography of “GasLand” give it a personal and homemade style which makes it an all- around persuasive documentary that exposes the dangers, and health and environmental hazards of hydraulic fracturing.
The film opens to a conference or a committee of officials in the hydro fracking industry discussing the benefits of hydro fracking, the “research” that has been done on the effects of fracking. This is what the public sees. This is what the public is shown and this immediately sets the tone for the rest of the documentary. From the initial image of Fox in front of the fracking wells with his banjo to this look into the hearing on the effects of fracking, it is clear this documentary will be a satirical dismantling of a huge, multi-faceted industry. Switch to Josh Fox, his personal story. In the house his parents built in Pennsylvania, Fox and his siblings grew up surrounded by nature and water. Fox establishes a relationship with his audience from the beginning by sharing the story of his childhood and demonstrating the personal connection he has to nature and to the fracking industry. By sharing the offer a fracking company made on his land, he gives himself credibility as someone with ties to the industry, as a person with something to lose. His personal story also establishes a reason for making the film. The narration over the beginning sets a mood, one a pessimism, even when discussing his family and childhood. The optimism of his relationship with his family and nature is tempered by the threat of hydraulic fracturing in the land he holds so dear.
Fox sets out on his adventure to uncover the truth of hydro fracking, getting in contact with people who have been negatively impacted. From contaminated drinking water to health decline, interviews with victims provide solid and appalling evidence to persuade the viewer. One of the most shocking and necessary elements of the film is the issue with the drinking water. Fox makes sure to give this issue adequate screen time and narrowing in on that one issue gives the documentary a focus and an element that lends itself to the cohesiveness of the film. Without it, the documentary would seem haphazard with disconnected parts. The editing of the film makes it easy to follow along and engaging. It keeps you waiting to find out what happens with the drinking water, what chemicals are found, what testimony do people have against hydro fracking? It adds a layer of suspense when discussing an otherwise fairly dull subject. This emphasizes the industry’s dependency on a finite resource and the subsequent destruction of that resource, something that is detrimental to personal health and safety. Is the extraction of natural gas worth the destruction of the planet that provides it or the people that live on it? These are the questions that Fox poses, giving the audience adequate material to form their own opinion on the subject and making every attempt to provide alternate views in his documentary, although the fracking company’s decline interviews countless times.
The cinematography is a key element to the film. Fox doesn’t use flashy equipment, cameras, and mics. He doesn’t have a massive crew. He’s a man and a camera, sharing a story. The image quality is at times grainy a gritty which lends itself to the raw subject matter and destruction of the natural landscape. Whereas many documentaries force a level of separation between the content and the audience through the use of epic and well-constructed cinematography, “GasLand” keeps the viewers up close and personal as Fox’s personal journey and the documenting of that journey is not hard to attain. He constantly emphasizes the fact that he is an ordinary guy looking for answers. Fox even rejected the high quality profession voice narration in favor of his homemade narration done at four in the morning as the documentary wasn’t meant to be scripted and planned in detail. It was always meant to be a very organic look into the damaging effects of the fracking industry.
Overall, “GasLand” challenges the notions that fracking companies have pushed down our throats and says that we need to open our eyes to the destruction of our planet. The one negative aspect of the film is the utter hopelessness one feels after watching it. The intense and melancholy music in the background can become taxing and his monotone narration through the whole film leaves the viewer with very little hope of enacting change. Fox also makes very little attempt to provide ways individuals can change the industry as not every individual has land on the Marcellus Shale. However, that being said, it is a well-constructed documentary that keeps its target audience as wide as possible and effectively persuades viewers of the severity of the situation.