Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Category: Gas Land

Gasland Film Response

Film Response

By Matt Allchin

Gasland, directed by Josh Fox, is a 2010 documentary that focuses on communities in the United States affected by natural gas drilling otherwise known as hydrofracking. The film follows Josh Fox as he travels to many different homes that have been negatively affected by the drilling around them because of their faucets lighting on fire or because of the illnesses they have caught from their contaminated water.

One of the biggest strengths of this film is Josh Fox. The film is directed and basically stars him and because of this he brings a lot of personality to the film. From the banjo playing to the conversations with the locals you can really see how passionate about the subject he is. He also supplies some comedic relief to the film, which makes it more entertaining. The film even starts out with him reading a letter from a natural gas company looking to lease his home in Pennsylvania so that they can drill in that area. This just enforces how important this issue is to him and why he is doing this. This is worth mentioning because we can clearly see the intent of the filmmaker and what he is trying to say with this movie, which is that hydrofracking, has negative impacts to the environment and the communities around the drilling sites.

The way the documentary ss shot and edited was interesting. The film feels independent because it seems like Josh is doing everything such as the scene where he is trying to call various natural gas companies himself and how his interviews are less formal and more of a conversation with the locals. Most of the shots are handheld and are filmed in close quarters during the interviews. Some parts even look surreal like the signature shot of Josh playing his banjo while wearing the gas mask. Overall, the documentary felt personal which seems like that what Josh was going for since this was an issue that was about to impact his own home.

A downfall of the film is that it mostly just provides the perspective of gas drilling effects on the local level. Even though there was a scene where he tried to get interviews with high ups in the natural gas corporations, the fact that there weren’t many of them hindered the movie. This is an important perspective especially because many of the corporations have come out against the film and have stated some inaccuracies. Whether they are right or not is up in the air since these aren’t the most honest people but it does make the lack of perspectives more of an issue.

On top of the lack of perspectives, Gasland doesn’t go into the impacts of hydrofracking on a global scale. Instead all of the interviews and scenes were spent looking at the impacts on a micro scale. Looking at the global level could have helped enforce the idea that the negative effects of natural gas drilling outweigh the benefits. Not only that, but not a single solution to this issue was brought up throughout the movie. Because of this the film feels very depressing and often leaves the viewer feeling hopeless. I understand that this film is meant to turn heads and shine some light on hydrofracking but providing solutions would have been a good addition for the people who are not as informed on the issue.

The overall message of Gasland was clear and well received. Even though it is not a perfect film, it was able to draw attention this controversial issue in our society and did its job of educating people about the horrible impacts happening to people around drilling. It has definitely riled up a lot of people against hydrofracking and has even been compared to Silent Spring by Rachel Carson as far as exposing problems in a common process in our society

Gasland: A Response

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.

Gasland

Gasland is a 2010 documentary created by Josh Fox. The film explores the crisis of hydraulic fracking in the United and States, showing its devastating effects on people’s health and livelihood. The film offers details about the process of fracking in an informative and simple way, and explains the hundreds of deadly chemicals and carcinogens that are making many people sick. Fox also explores how there seems to be some kind of corporate cover-up when it comes to this catastrophe. Gasland is a performative documentary. Josh Fox makes himself known in the documentary as well as narrates him. We frequently see him holding his camera and talking to his subjects, as well as participating in the “science experiments” that his subjects have created with their contaminated water, such as lighting the tap water on fire or burning water to make plastic. Also, at the beginning of the documentary Fox tells us that he was sent a letter where he was offered almost $100,000 to lease his land in order to frack, so he is personally affected by this as well.

The documentary is filmed in a handheld style with a few static shots as well. It is very raw and gritty, which shows the gross subject matter that Josh Fox is dealing with. It also feels very personal, and when watching it, you don’t feel very separated from the problem. Fox goes into people’s houses and talks with them in a casual manner. There are no indications of formal interviews. I think this is a pro with the film. Being up close and personal with these struggling people puts it into perspective, I think. Seeing the subjects in their homes, talking to their friends, family, and neighbors, shows that they are serious about what’s happening to their water and that they are terrified for their health. A few of the subjects had farms as well so the contaminated water not only affects their health but also their animals’ health, they’re income, and their ability to sell their land. Josh Fox shows us that he attempts to get the other side of the story. There is a montage at the beginning of the film showing him on the phone calling various gas companies and people in order to get their side, but no one wants to talk to him. Later in the film he tries to talk to a higher-up in his office but he then says that he’ll talk off the record but he will not appear on the documentary. This only emphasizes the insidious, apparent cover-up and maybe-conspiracy.

The only con I can find in the film is its editing style. While I think it works some of the time, the rest of the time it made the film a tiny bit confusing. For example, Josh Fox will be visiting with one family and then all of a sudden he’ll be on another family’s farm and it takes a minute to realize it. This does not hinder my understanding of the larger message, however, which is the most important thing.

 

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