|Directed by||Josh Fox|
|Produced by||Trish Adlesic|
|Written by||Josh Fox|
|Narrated by||Josh Fox|
|Edited by||Matthew Sanchez|
International WOW Company
Gasland is a 2010 American documentary written and directed by Josh Fox. The film focuses on communities in the United States where natural gas drilling activity was a concern and, specifically, on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), a method of stimulating production in otherwise impermeable rock.
Fracking is a technique that has been used routinely since the late 1940s as an aid to stimulating production in oil and gas wells.Horizontal drilling, a recent innovation in drilling techniques, can create horizontal pathways deep within the earth, and has successfully incorporated hydraulic fracturing to release fluids from shale formations. Horizontal drilling coupled with fracking has transformed the energy business, enabled vast new supplies of natural gas, and advanced the goal of United States energy independence.
The film was a key mobilizer for the anti-fracking movement, and "brought the term 'hydraulic fracturing' into the nation's living rooms" according to The New York Times. GASLAND premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, where it was awarded the 2010 Special Jury Prize for Documentary. In June 2010, it premiered on HBO to an audience of 3 million homes, was seen by over 250,000 audience members in its 250 city grassroots tour. The film was nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature., and won a 2011 Emmy for best non-fiction director among numerous other awards.
Fox narrates his reception of a letter in May, 2008, from a natural gas company offering to lease his family's land in Milanville, Pennsylvania for $100,000 to drill for gas. Fox then set out to see how communities are being affected in the west where a natural gas drilling boom has been underway for the last decade. He spent time with citizens in their homes and on their land as they relayed their stories of natural gas drilling in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Texas, among others. He spoke with residents who have experienced a variety of chronic health problems directly traceable to contamination of their air, of their water wells or of surface water. In some instances, the residents are reporting that they obtained a court injunction or settlement money from gas companies to replace the affected water supplies with potable water or water purification kits.
Throughout the documentary, Fox reached out to scientists, politicians, and gas industry executives and ultimately found himself in the halls of Congress as a subcommittee was discussing the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, "a bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal a certain exemption for hydraulic fracturing." Hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Gasland was conceived, directed, primarily filmed and narrated by Fox. This is his first documentary and second film; his first was a narrative feature entitled Memorial Day. The executive producers of Gasland are Debra Winger and Hunter Gray; producers are Trish Adlesic, Fox and Molly Gandour; co-produced by David Roma; cinematographers are Fox and Matthew Sanchez; editor is Matthew Sanchez; supervising sound editor is Brian Scibinico; animators are Juan Cardarelli and Alex Tyson; consultants are Morgan Jenness and Henry Chalfant and researchers are Molly Gandour, Barbara Arindell, Fox and Joe Levine.
The documentary was made in about eighteen months. Fox began the project as a one-man crew, but was joined by three other cameras at different points. Matthew Sanchez is credited with the structure of the film and together with Fox edited roughly 200 hours of footage to about 100 minutes.
Robert Koehler of Variety referred to it as "one of the most effective and expressive environmental films of recent years... Gasland may become to the dangers of natural gas drilling what Silent Spring was to DDT."
Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote, "Gasland is the paragon of first person activist filmmaking done right... By grounding a massive environmental issue in its personal ramifications, Fox turns Gasland into a remarkably urgent diary of national concerns."
As of 2010Gasland holds a 98% rating on the film site Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews, and an average rating of 6.98/10. The website's critical consensus states, "GasLand patiently and powerfully outlines alarming problems with modern fuel extraction -- and the horrific public health risks that go along with them".
Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live gave it a generally positive review, criticizing its similarity to other recent oil documentaries, yet praising its "extraordinary visual kick". He said "it is a very interesting story which is made better by the fact that the visuals of it are very poetic, very lyrical", and felt that its themes and ideas were relevant and well presented.
The Denton Record Chronicle said "Fox decides that his own backyard in Pennsylvania isn't his exclusive property... Set to his own banjo music and clever footage, Gasland is both sad and scary... if your soul isn't moved by the documentary, yours is a heart of shale."
Fort Worth Business Press writer John-Laurent Tronche talks about the growing number of documentaries "that aim to shed a light on what they call a dirty, destructive practice: shale gas exploration. And although oil and gas supporters have labeled the motion pictures as radical propaganda, a local drilling activist said they're part of a larger, critical look into an ever-growing industry."
Energy in Depth (EiD), launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, has created a web page with a list of factual inaccuracies in the documentary, and produced an associated film titled TruthLand. In response to the EID's criticisms of the film, the makers of Gasland offered a rebuttal.
In an article for Forbes magazine, Dr. Michael Economides, a professor of engineering at the University of Houston and former consultant for energy companies including Chevron, Shell, and Petrobras, commented on the Gasland scene of "a man lighting his faucet water on fire and making the ridiculous claim that natural gas drilling is responsible for the incident. The clip, though attention-getting, is wildly inaccurate and irresponsible. To begin with, the vertical depth separation between drinking water aquifers and reservoir targets for gas production is several thousand feet of impermeable rock. Any interchange between the two, if it were possible, would have happened already in geologic time, measured in tens of millions of years, not in recent history."
In an article for Movies on Chatham, Dr. Pam Hassebroek, formerly a petroleum reservoir engineer (Registered Professional Engineer) at Exxon Research and at Shell, points out the long history of oil seeps in surface areas. In Pennsylvania and New York, surface oil has been documented since at least as far back as the 18th century. Further, U.S. oil and gas production has benefited from the use of hydraulic fracturing since the 1940s.
A sequel to Gasland titled Gasland Part II premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 21, 2013. GASLAND Part II premiered on HBO July 8, 2013 won the 2013 Environmental Media Association award for Best Documentary, the Best Film at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and was given the Hell Yeah Prize from Cinema Eye honors.
Josh premiered HOW TO LET GO OF THE WORLD AND LOVE ALL THE THINGS CLIMATE CAN'T CHANGE, at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016, toured the world theatrically and was released on HBO in June 2016, as part of the Gasland trilogy. This film was awarded Josh's third Environmental Media Association award for Best Documentary.