Josh Fox’s 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland” compellingly
exposed the damaging impact of a form of natural gas drilling called
hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking, on small town
America. Framed by Fox’s wry perspective, the movie clearly demonstrated
how fracking and the oil companies responsible for it endanger the
safety of anyone living within its vicinity. “Gasland” contained damning
evidence but apparently not enough to instigate much change, because
now Fox has completed “Gasland Part II,” which ably demonstrates the
deleterious environmental ramifications of fracking on a much larger
scale. Below, Fox talks about his project, which recently premiered at the currently underway Tribeca Film Festival.
About my film: “Gasland Part II” is a sequel to “Gasland,” but don’t worry, you don’t have to have seen the first one to be right with it. It tells the story of another layer of contamination due to fracking, not the water or the air–our government. Every oil & gas dollar is toxic to our democracy.
Anything about yourself you’d like cleared up? No one ever asks me about myself, they just want to know about fracking. According to the oil and gas industry and their proponents I am a communist, terrorist, nazi, Russian sympathizing, anti-American, arsonist, extremist. Their smear campaign would have you believe that I took money from Hugo Chavez, the Wind industry, Valdimir Putin, etc. and that my films misrepresent the oil and gas industry, which, of course, never has any problems with water contamination, air pollution, spills, or toxic industrialization and is just a great neighbor to everyone on earth and doesn’t cause climate change or any other kind of future apocalypse. Also according to them, I burned down a building on my own property, and pro-drilling officials have publicly compared “Gasland,” the first film in this series, to the work of Goebbels. You may also be advised that screenings of my film, “Gasland,” in Pennsylvania were listed as Eco-terrorist events in PA Homeland Security bulletins. Of course, none of those things are true. I’m just a guy who lives in the upper Delaware River Basin, the watershed for 16 million people including New York City. I also sometimes live in Brooklyn. I’m just trying to stop fracking, a horrendously contaminating industrial process that is currently occupying huge areas in 34 states in the U.S. and has now spread to 32 countries world wide. I’ve investigated the crisis of fracking on 5 continents for the past 5 years. Also I play the banjo. If you haven’t heard about all of this yet, or especially if you have, come and watch “Gasland Part II.” I’m gonna play the Star Spangled Banner on the banjo at the end of the Q and A. Every time. I promise.
What else do you want audiences to know about your film? It’s a sequel, so it has bigger and better explosions.
But more than that it gives a picture of where we are now, in the U.S. and worldwide of the state of extreme energy development. We can continue to frack the world with all the ensuing chaos of water and air contamination, health problems and the dismantling of our democratic process, or we can start to make new choices about where we get our energy. The film will lay out those choices clearly. As Calvin Tillman, the Mayor of Dish Texas says so poignantly in the film “Once you know, you can’t not know.”
What was your biggest hurdle to overcome in getting this made? When I first started, no one knew anything about fracking. Now it’s a household word. The biggest challenge was in trying to tell the story of fracking that you don’t know.
The other huge challenge here was choosing what to include from incredible testimonies coming from all of the families depicted in the film. Thousands upon thousands of people across America and many more across the globe are suffering at the hands of the oil and gas industry. It’s a huge story that demands the utmost attention. We tried our best to serve that with humor and the deepest respect.
Fave docs? I love the documentary work of the Maysles Brothers. I love how Koyaanistqatsi captures the conflict between nature and industrial civilization. Those films inspire me. Godard’s use of percussive rhythms in his editing. I love documentary because it’s alive. “When you get blue, and you’ve lost all your dreams, there’s nothing like a campfire and a can of beans.”- Tom Waits.
So what comes next? Gonna get out there and keep fighting the oil and gas industry. “Gasland Part II” will have a cross country grassroots engagement campaign similar to the first film. I’m really looking forward to touring with the film and bringing the movie to the grassroots organizations that are fighting fracking all over the country. HBO has been really amazing in that they see the potential of this kind of distribution model — a TV premiere running along side of a grassroots tour. We will be organizing house parties for people to watch in coordination with Americans Against Fracking, Environmental Working Group and many other grassroots orgs.
[Eric Kohn contributed to this article.]