By Keira Brown
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This article is over 11 years, 7 months old
Director: Josh Fox, Release date: 14 January
Issue 354

Type “Gasland” into any search engine and a couple of things come up. The documentary website encourages you to take action in support of safe drinking water. A Guardian article, with a contribution from Mark Ruffalo, directs you to a “terrorism watchlist” which serves to make this piece of investigative journalism all the more compelling.

This informative and thorough documentary is film-maker Josh Fox’s record of his discovery of “fracking” – the toxic drilling process of hydraulic fracturing – featuring the stories of the “little men” who reside in one of the 32 states affected by the gas drilling.

The stories, filmed on a hand-held camera, force the viewer to consider the issue from a human perspective. Driving home the illegitimate aspects of this industry, Fox’s camera witnesses the actions of the process and the implications for the people who live within the surrounding areas, as well as the environment that drilling companies have been permitted to infiltrate.

Despite the Clean Water Act, a law described as “the cornerstone of surface water quality protection in the United States”, oil and gas companies have been allowed to operate with impunity. Noam Chomsky’s work and documentaries such as Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room have shown Dick Cheney’s involvement with these companies.

Gasland concludes with a shot of toxic water, accompanied by banjo music – an instrument symbolic of resistance to US oppression. The soundtrack is nicely allegorical to the issues addressed in the film.

Often with documentaries that criticise aspects of US culture, such as Fast Food Nation, Fahrenheit 911 and Dude, Where’s My Country?, foreign audiences can retain the ability to detach and not feel the real implications of the issues. Gasland, however, reinforces the real lack of consideration for the rights of the everyday people who are forced into the back seat behind the everyday business of the corporate world.

It doesn’t matter if you are from the US or Britain: regulation is lax when it comes to lining the pockets of the wealthy. These universal themes, along with an accomplished camera style, technique and execution, ensure that Gasland is a film that will seize the audience’s attention.

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