Gasland (PG)

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Josh Fox
Josh Fox

The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/01/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Emotionally engaging and genuinely shocking, this is a powerful, well made eco-documentary with an important message that demands to be heard.

What's it all about?
When film-maker and banjo enthusiast Josh Fox receives a letter from the government offering him $100,000 for drilling rights on his idyllic Pennsylvania property, he decides to investigate the likely effects of a gas drilling procedure known as hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), whereby tonnes of chemical-infused water are injected into the ground to free up natural gas reserves. His journey takes him to 25 different states where hydraulic fracturing is practised and the results are utterly horrifying across the board: contaminated water supplies, large scale environmental damage, tap water that catches fire and people suffering from a wide range of illnesses.

There are no prizes for guessing who's to blame: in 2005, Dick Cheney and George Bush pushed through the Energy Policy Act, which, incredibly, exempted gas drilling from the Safe Water Drinking Act. Consequently, in its eagerness to escape dependence on foreign oil, America is rushing to exploit its own natural gas resources, but at a potentially devastating cost to both the environment and human life.

The Good
Fox is an extremely engaging central figure (he's more Louis Theroux than Michael Moore) and his personal involvement in the story makes it that much more urgent, especially since many of his neighbours have already leased their land to the government. Along the way he meets a wide variety of ordinary people who are being routinely lied to about the effects of the gas drilling on the safety of their drinking water (tellingly, there are several stories about government employees refusing to drink the water they're offered).

There are several memorable scenes, particularly the moment someone first demonstrates how the tap water can be made to catch fire – at first it's shocking and funny, but Fox's amusement quickly pales; it then turns out that, far from being a quirky, isolated incident, gas-infused water is actually a distressingly common side-effect of fracking.

The Great
The film makes some astute observations, such as comparing gas drilling fields with an 1890s automobile - i.e. with no safety measures in place, it's only a matter of time before it blows up in your face. It's also extremely well shot throughout and Fox's fondness for playing bluegrass banjo music makes for an excellent soundtrack.

Worth seeing?
By turns shocking and deeply upsetting, Gasland is a powerful, well made eco-documentary that carries a vitally important message and should be seen by every politician in the country. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 21/08/2018 11:23

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