Posted by: Drew Deubner | February 28, 2010

Review: ‘GasLand’

We take water for granted.

We trust its clarity and purity, and sometimes we forget how important a resource it is.

It’s something we use every day, for drinking, showering or putting in Fluffy’s bowl. For better or worse, we use tap water without knowing what’s in it.

“GasLand,” which played this weekend at the 2010 True/False Film Festival, investigates exactly what happens when we forget how important water is as a resource, when we forget the toxicity of chemicals and when we place profits before people.
The film opens with a a tale of narrator/filmmaker Josh Fox’s upbringing in the rural Catskills of Pennsylvania. His parents built a house on wooded land to give it to their son later in life.

Fox’s connection with this land is deep, which is why he paid close attention when a letter from Cabot Oil & Gas arrived, offering money for it. They want to drill for natural gas.

The film does not take issue with the use of natural gas, but rather the method of obtaining it. A process called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) uses water to push down into the earth and bring up the natural gas. An assortment of chemicals helps this process. (The chemicals include such tasty morsels as mercury and ethylene glycol. Yum.) When these chemicals are forced into the ground, they remain — unless, they find water to leech into, often the well water rural residents use.

The premise of “GasLand” as a political documentary is to explore how and why environmental legislation has been ignored in this case.

Fox shows an overwhelming love, respect and concern for his subjects, not just as rhetorical talking points. The pacing of the film was a bit stiff at times, as it veered around the country searching for sufficient background material to make the next point. The etherial banjo music floating in the background was both entertaining and a running commentary, jibing at the rural American dream.

“GasLand “shows just how fragile that dream can be.

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