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Is The Issue Doc Dead? How 'Gasland' and 'Hillary' Show Things Aren't Looking Great

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire October 22, 2012 at 7:10AM

It has been almost three years since Josh Fox debuted his anti-fracking documentary "Gasland" at the Sundance Film Festival.  There, it caused spirited conversation amongst audiences and won a Special Jury Prize at the festival. 
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A faucet on fire in Josh Fox's "Gasland."
HBO A faucet on fire in Josh Fox's "Gasland."

It has been almost three years since Josh Fox debuted his anti-fracking documentary "Gasland" at the Sundance Film Festival.  There, it caused spirited conversation amongst audiences and won a Special Jury Prize at the festival. 

The film went on to screen on HBO, was licensed in over 30 countries for television, and Fox personally took the film to over 200 cities.  Many many more local community groups, universities and organizations screened the film without Fox there.  The film has been an incredibly useful tool for organizing in affected communities. 

"Gasland" is especially interesting because it has a smoking gun.  You see "Gasland," you know fracking is wrong.  The disastrous effects of fracking are shown in stark terms.

Citizens' groups in affected areas have documented for some time the problems they have encountered, especially with respect to their water supply, when the frackers come to town.  In one of the most damning pieces of evidence against anyone in the history of documentary film, Fox visits a family who turns on their faucet -- the same water they clean with, but no longer drink -- and proceeds to light the water coming out of the faucet on fire.

We just learned that Mitt Romney likes -- but wants to kill the government subsidy to -- Big Bird. At the first presidential debate, we also learned that Mitt Romney likes clean coal, and he wants to end the taxes levied against burning coal. He also supports, like his opponent Barack Obama, fracking -- the process of sending a cocktail of chemicals into our ground and (due to unreliable concrete) water supply to break through rocks and reach natural gas reserves.

Fracking often takes place on large tracts of land bought from financially struggling farmers and other landowners. For land under which lies natural gas reserves, the gas companies will pay a pretty sum for this land.

As Fox details in his short film, "The Sky Is Pink," made for Rolling Stone magazine, the fossil fuel lobby created a response to the film, which was placed at the top of Google search results.

THE SKY IS PINK by Josh Fox and the GASLAND Team from JFOX on Vimeo.

"The Sky is Pink" is Fox's first attempt to explain why "Gasland" hasn't made the dent he knows it should. Working with HBO, he's developing a feature-length exposé, "Gasland 2," about why fracking rages on -- why Democrats like President Obama and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo support fracking (Cuomo has recently indicated that he is reconsidering this opinion).

"If the Cuomo administration does come out supporting fracking, they'll now be doing it in a very public way," Fox told Indiewire."They now know that whatever they do, they'll be in our film."

"Outside of the political campaign," Fox continued, "the fossil fuel industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars. As my good friend Bill McKibben likes to say 'I'm a Sunday School teacher, but I'll still say: These companies have more money than God.'"

This article is related to: Josh Fox, GASLAND, HBO, Issues & Actions, Documentary