A Contaminated Democracy (That’s Fracked Up!)

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Typically film sequels only instigate eye-rolls from moviegoers, but I solemnly swear that “Gasland Part II” is worth viewing. The prequel “Gasland” invited viewers to join filmmaker Josh Fox as he educated himself about the natural gas industry’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) method of gas extraction – and in the process, he exposed the environmental repercussions associated with it. In the follow-up film, Fox drills into the gas industry again by documenting how natural gas companies are taking advantage of property owners, threatening and propelling them into financial ruins. The intention of “Gasland Part II” is to emphasize the necessity for the government, specifically the EPA, to take stronger action to protect, or perhaps the better term is to release American citizens from the strong clutch of the oil and gas industry. To accomplish this, the film refutes the gas industry’s claim that fracking is a clean, safe alternative to oil and explains how it endangers the Earth’s climate with methane, contaminates our clean air and water supply.

While the content itself is certainly scary in the sense that it reveals a hidden hierarchy in our society, “Gasland Part II” actually mimics film techniques used in horror movies that leaves the audience in psychological discomfort. The sequel begins by hitting you with a series of choppy, hazy TV clips over a swelling deep base. As the accelerated mix of audio and visuals reach the climax, an eerie silence follows. This short pause forces the audience to consider how they feel, notice their accelerated heartbeat and prepare for what will follow. Some might argue this technique is an unjust psychological manipulation, but I see it as a strong tactic for emphasizing the horrors of the gas industry.

It is something Josh Fox does well, and a concept we often stress in class: appealing to emotions. And it is not something you need money to do, but in an interview Fox explained that the budget for the sequel was much larger than his first film, which he revealed was $15,000. Fox did not disclose the budget for “Gasland Part II,” but he expressed that having a larger budget produced a much different experience as a filmmaker. He states:

“I can’t tell you how much but we were able to go places, we shot in Africa and Australia and New Orleans and Texas. This time it was our job to go, versus the first one where it was me pulling up in my 1992 Toyota Camry that I had been sleeping in asking people if they wanted to talk. People always wanted to talk to me, they’d spend a day with me, no problem. In Congress, I got some representatives to talk to me, they knew who I was which was both a good and bad thing.”

Although the film originally premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, it made its TV debut on HBO as part of the HBO documentary series. It has garnered several awards, such as the “Hell Yeah Prize,” in the Cinema Eye Honors Awards, and snagged an Environmental Media Award. It was also nominated for an Emmy in the News and Documentary Emmy Awards. It continues to be screened by different environmental groups at various theaters in the United States, and you can also purchase the film on DVD.

If my brief description didn’t do this movie justice, or if it did and you are intrigued you can find out more about “Gasland Part II” in one swift click.

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