Josh Fox’s first-person semi-amateur documentary Gasland deals with the havoc wreaked by natural gas wells—over 450,000 from Pennsylvania and New York state in the East to Wyoming and the Grand Tetons in the West—that produce bubbling, fizzing, and occasionally flammable water in the household drinking-water wells around their installation sites. Although the gas companies claim their processes are completely safe, the documentary evidence gathered here would seem to say otherwise. Fox—prompted to make the film because gas companies wanted to buy the land his parents built their house that sits on the Delaware river in upstate New York—zeroes in on the practice of “fracking,” which involves creating a mini-earthquake deep underground and then using some 556 chemicals (and gallon upon gallon of water) to extract the gas.
Dead, sick and dying animals and livestock (and humans) soon attend the installation of a new gas well—and the director goes to great lengths, geographically and otherwise, to get to the source of these problems, visiting gas fields like Jonah Field, and later incorporating Congressional hearings footage. Fox scores a coup when he gets the chance to sit and talk with Dr. Theo Colborn, but, aside from her insightful commentary, the film is marred by Fox’s deadpan narration and a resultant listlessness.
Though its subject is of almost no direct relevance to New Zealand viewers, the documentary is nonetheless an interesting watch, if only to absorb the knowledge—and perhaps relish the conspiracy-busting—contained therein. [Edit: see comments; it turns out there is direct relevance to New Zealand: hydraulic fracturing is happening in Taranaki.]
Gasland is now out on DVD through Madman.
Special features include 45 minutes’ worth of bonus scenes, the film’s trailer, and an extended interview with Fox conducted by Australian reviewer David Stratton.