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(GasLand is now available on DVD through New Video. It world premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Documentary Special Jury Prize. It premiered on HBO Monday, June 21, 2010, at 9pm. Go here for a screening schedule and visit the film’s official website to learn how to participate in the discussion. NOTE: I have only seen the Sundance version of the film, which has apparently been re-edited since then.)

As oil spews into the Gulf of Mexico at an alarming and seemingly endless rate, Josh Fox’s GasLand has unwittingly become an even more timely and terrifyingly vital document. When Fox’s own Pennsylvania land became a potential target for the fracking (hydraulic fracturing) process associated with natural gas drilling, Fox grabbed his camera and traveled to over 20 states, visiting many communities who had already leased their precious land for these purposes. What he uncovered is more disturbing than you could possibly imagine. Before you dismiss Fox as yet another liberal, hippy-dippy whiner, shut up and watch this:

Now are you paying attention? While that might be the most viscerally shocking example of the fracking dangers Fox encounters on his journey, it is by no means the only one (I could list them but it makes me too angry). GasLand isn’t just a wake-up call. It’s a screaming wake-up siren in the middle of a pitch-black night.

This past January, on my Jet Blue flight out to Park City for the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, I caught a snippet of the CNBC show Mad Money w/ Jim Cramer, on which gazillionaire T. Boone Pickens stated his case for natural gas drilling on American soil. In the long run, Pickens argued, it was a cheaper, safer way to control our own resources without depending on other countries. Pickens bet Cramer one hundred dollars that within months, Congress would pass a bill supporting his mission as well. As described by Pickens, I confess that this natural gas business sounded promising to me. Then, just a few days later, I watched GasLand, at which point my naïve support turned to informed, stomach-churning fury. I’d love to hear Pickens—or any supporter of natural gas drilling—respond to the arguments Fox presents so convincingly in his film. At the very least, I hope GasLand‘s airing on television (pay cable, but still) will expose this potential nightmare to as wide an audience as possible.

As an example of first person, call-to-arms nonfiction cinema, GasLand should immediately enter curricula everywhere (Michael Moore and others, please take note). When I moderated the Q&A for one of its screenings at the Sarasota Film Festival, it got a standing ovation—as it did when I saw it at Sundance. This is achieved through Fox’s use of humor, music, and a casual, everyman approach that helps to temper the otherwise infuriating onslaught of revelations on display. By taking this more humble approach, Fox adds immeasurable power and conviction to his case. By the end of the film, it doesn’t even feel like a case. It feels like a presentation of indisputable facts.

In addition to Fox’s engaging persona, what ultimately makes GasLand so effective and convincing is that he hasn’t made this film to brashly declare that natural gas drilling is 100% evil. All he’s asking is that the powers-that-be proceed with caution—led by legitimate government regulation, first and foremost—in order to make sure that fracking isn’t going to ruin our precious watersheds in our rush to become as self-sufficient as possible (and to make a handful of rich people even richer). It’s bad enough for our oceans to become contaminated on however large or small a scale, but if the ground beneath our feet and the water streaming out of our sinks becomes poisoned, that makes for a deadly scenario from which we will never recover. Seek out GasLand, then get involved.

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

  • DocDude

    For other documentaries on this subject, check out: Gas Odyssey and Haynesville

    June 21, 2010
  • Dana

    I heard about “Gasland” on NPR. I set my DVR to record and I started to watch it. I got as far as seeing Dick Cheney and the corporate high mucky-mucks standing by as Chimpy McFlightsuit signed the paper that allowed all this to happen. I changed the channel, I had seen enough. Those criminals’ involvement was all I needed to know. Anything at all concerning energy has been tainted by their actions. Watch this film, if you must, but until our present new, so called, “leader” declares an executive order reversing that abomination signed by Bush, nothing will change.

    June 23, 2010
  • Kathryn

    I too listened to an interview on NPR with Josh Fox. From the sounds of it 1000’s of people around the country have been dealing with seriously ill effects as a result of exposure from such gas drilling. Listening to what can only be described as an insidious invitation to catastrophic accidents waiting to happen on a mass scale, I was floored that I was just hearing about this. That it wasn’t all over the nightly news by now!! IRRESPONSIBLY OUTRAGEOUS!!!!!!!!!

    June 23, 2010
  • YO,
    This nation’s “WAKE UP CALL” occurred when John Kennedy was shot and not a sleeping idiot in the USA has yet “AWAKENED.” Anyone who still believes that this is a “free” country governed by law “of the people, for the people, by the people” is flat outright, prima fascia, a “BDI” (Brain Dead Idiot). I voted for the sniveling “Make No Mistake” bumbling liar who is arrogantly leading us lemmings over the cliff and is called the President of these United States – and so he is. With that I rest my case! Nobody really gives a DAMN about anything but their personal pursuit of $ and everybody is afraid to admit it: and therein, my friends, lies the assurance of our demise!

    MAHALO FROM HONOLULU – Slowly Sinking into the Sunset.

    June 23, 2010
  • Sad

    This has been going on for decades. Back in the 60’s my grandparents retired to land in northeast Kentucky. They had the most pristine and wonderful tasting water you can imagine from their deep well they had drilled. A number of years later the EPA came to their door and told them to stop using ALL their water immediately, with the exception of using it to flush the toilet. Now here are people in a VERY rural area, not allowed to use water for cooking or bathing or drinking. This was about 35 years before bottled water was popular.

    Apparently what happens is when they drill for natural gas, in order to get ALL the gas out, they pour this incredibly toxic chemical into the gas pocket. The chemical fills the oil pocket, forcing the remaining gas to the top, where it can be siphoned off.

    What they never told the people in this area is that this chemical leaches naturally into the water tables and poisons the water. It’s amazing the cancer rates in these areas where this type of activity occurs…they’re among the highest in the country.

    June 24, 2010
  • If you ask me, the whole notion to become more “self-sufficient” is just a ridiculous excuse for doing anything you please, and it works very well in the States. Step 1: Scare people, Step 2: Say you’re going to help them out of that scare and what you do is inevitable. The crowd will easily drown the voices of the few who are affected and so there are no questions.
    I think we should start questioning the underlying reasoning before we start questioning the actions it justifies.
    The rest I will not comment on just now because I don’t want to have my weekend spoiled.

    July 24, 2010
  • October 13, 2010
  • December 14, 2010
  • Hey very nice blog!! Man .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also….

    February 15, 2011
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