Saturday, December 4, 2010

Review: GasLand

And my documentary rut continues! I promise I'll start reviewing some non-doc films as soon as they hurry up and open for me here in Canada.

Josh Fox sets out on a mission to investigate how natural gas drilling affects the lives of Americans whose land sits atop vast natural gas shale formations.

It's a story worth telling, and Fox's ambition in going out on his own to get to the bottom of ground water contamination and atmospheric pollution is commendable, but a lot of his film comes down to filler montages of him driving from state to state, hearing the the same horror stories over and over again from rural citizens who can light their tap water on fire or have been made ill because of hydraulic fracturing processes that have tainted their wells with deadly chemicals and natural gas. I'd venture that Fox puts himself front and centre a little too much, and his film also suffers a bit from amateurish production values (shaky/unfocused camera work and jarring cuts, for instance). It does get quite interesting in the end when we get to see a congressional hearing wherein sharp-minded politicians, environmental lobbyists, and industry representatives go tete-a-tete on the subject, but it doesn't make up for the relative shoddiness of the first hour and twenty minutes.

This managed to make the Academy's shortlist of eligible Best Documentary contenders, but I wonder if it can be nominated against the works of more professional film makers.


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