GASLAND – Sundance Documentary Review
Today I attended the screening of GASLAND, a new documentary written and directed by Josh Fox (who also made the narrative feature Memorial Day released in 2009). Here are some thoughts on it.
In Gasland, Fox investigates the topic of natural gas drilling and the effects on the environment and the people who live around these operations. What he finds out is an astonishing and terrifying situation with gas seeping into people’s drinking water making entire households sick. To top it all off, you have giant corporations denying the facts, government bureaucrats doing nothing and people in despair clamoring for help. The perfect storm for a cover up story.
In his quest to find the truth, Fox goes across the country visiting family after family capturing their stories and essentially exposing the situation as it is. This process turns out to be the flaw of Gasland as this process becomes very repetitive and actually starts to get slightly boring. After seeing the 3rd family with flammable tap water (yeah I am not even kidding about that), you start to get slightly desensitized to the whole thing and start thinking to yourself: “Ok, but what else is there?”
In addition, during the making of the movie, Fox makes some efforts to contact some of the companies who are responsible for this situation but only to hit a brick wall. My issue with his approach as it was depicted was that it felt very timid as he was just trying to call these companies and not trying really hard to meet face to face with the folks behind them, Michael Moore style. Now maybe he did that in reality but it just didn’t translate like that in the movie.
Overall, as much as I liked the subject matter and the folks portrayed in Gasland, I felt that the overall topic did not justify spending an hour and a half on it. By cutting out the repetitive scenes, this could have easily fit a 15-30 min documentary featured on Current TV. Would I recommend you watch this? Yes but on TV because I don’t think that I would pay money to go see it in theaters.
In the meantime, feel free to check out the trailer of Gasland below.