“Gasland Part II” played to a packed house in the Callicoon Theatre on Saturday, June 8. The documentary about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, by director and Milanville, PA resident Josh Fox picks up where it left off in the 2010 release of Academy Award nominated “Gasland.” Fox said Callicoon is his favorite theatre, and that they hadn’t had that many people there since “Titanic.”
The film begins with shots of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. While the media was restricted to fly a certain distance over the gulf, Fox was able to get permission to fly at a lower altitude, getting shots of oil-streaked waters and cleanup ships spewing fire from smoke stacks. He goes on to interview a gulf resident, the wife of a fisherman. In an eerie foreshadowing of what could occur in our area should fracking happen, she talks about her anger at their way of life being disrupted. No longer can they fish the waters and share their catch with neighbors and friends. If they don’t have that, she says, they may as well move.
This becomes the theme for the second iteration of “Gasland”—with health and legal problems abounding, many families are moving out of their homes. In the first film, Fox goes all over the country, interviewing families who are facing fracking. In part two, he returns to some of those families, as well as new ones, and travels to Colorado, Texas, Dimock, PA and more. One memorable character from the first film was the mayor of Dish, Texas, a town named after Dish Network. When Fox speaks to him, the mayor is packing up and moving his family out of their home. Fox says you know it’s bad when the mayor leaves town.
The film, which one viewer described as depressing but inspirational, focuses a lot on the bureaucratic side of the fracking battle. Fox speaks to Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency and many congressmen, and shows a part from President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address, in which he advocates natural gas. He even gets arrested for trying to film a public hearing. He makes the point that with so many politicians receiving money from gas company lobbyists, it is up to the people to see changes. The crowd in the Callicoon Theatre applauded, as they did many times during the film, in a showing of solidarity.
Another aspect that Fox focuses on in “Gasland Part II” is the public relations side of the gas industry. Since “Gasland” first came out, there have been many ads from gas companies about natural gas, and even children’s books featuring the dinosaur “Friendly Fracosaurus.” Fox compares the PR campaigns to the cigarette industry, making the conclusion that just like there’s no safe cigarette, there is no safe fracking.
Other highlights of the film are clips of Stephen Colbert interviewing Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor and gas industry lobbyist (www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRzYC-1Ifng ). In the clip, Colbert lists some chemicals used in the fracking process and then says, “How many of those can I feed my toddler?”
Fox also interviews Tony Ingraffea, a professor at Cornell University, who explains that the pipes used to carry natural gas are surrounded by a layer of cement, and that many times the cement either cracks or breaks, allowing gas to leak out. This is why there have been so many reports of groundwater contamination.
As with “Gasland,” in part two Fox ends with shots of the streams and trees around his house and the Delaware River, bringing it back to a moment of peace after the whirlwind of technical information and personal stories seen throughout the documentary. After all the scenes of people leaving their homes in Texas and Dimock and more, Fox says, we cannot leave. This is our home.
Once the film finished, a panel of local experts gathered at the front of the theatre and answered questions. They took a photo of everyone in the crowd raising peace signs in the air, which is for a Twitter campaign with the tag “Not from Gasland” (www.twitter.com/gaslandmovie/status/343448927569330177/photo/1 ). “Gasland Part II” was shown as part of a grassroots tour, going on now and throughout June; the film will debut on HBO on July 8. For more information, visit www.gaslandthemovie.com .