[Photo by Karie Currid of the University of Missouri's Maneater student newspaper of Josh Fox speaking last year at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO.]
Last June, as GASLAND was premiering (after months of stellar festival screenings) on HBO, we wrote about the emerging attacks on Josh Fox by allies of the natural gas industry.
When Fox was shortlisted and later nominated for an Academy Award for the film earlier this year, the attacks intensified, with gas industry front groups arguing that AMPAS should deny Fox his nomination because, according to them, the film was factually inaccurate.
Many filmmakers would be off to the next topic and issue the moment the Best Documentary Feature envelope is opened at the Kodak Theatre, but a new article in Rolling Stone by Alexander Zaitchik notes that Fox hasn't stopped his push to outlaw "fracking" and the industry hasn't stopped tracking his every move.
Since HBO picked up the rights to Gasland last June, fracking has come under a level of public scrutiny that the industry – encompassing hundreds of firms involved in drilling, refining, and transport – has spent the last decade trying to avoid. It’s easy to see why. The spotlight on fracking’s risks has seriously retarded the industry push to gain access to the entirety of the nation’s gas reserves. In statehouses around the country, momentum has been slowed and moratoriums proposed and instituted. The stage is set this year for especially raucous public showdowns in New York and Pennsylvania, which sit on the northern tip of the Marcellus Shale, a massive underground gas deposit extending from Southern Virginia to within spitting distance of the New York statehouse in Albany.
The deep politics of gas development will feature prominently in GASLAND's sequel, which Fox is currently shooting for an early 2012 release. It will include cameos from those at every level in the debate, including U.S. senators, small-town inspection officers, and petition-wielding parking-lot activists. “On the one side is a very powerful industry and their political and media allies,” says Fox. “But there are small groups of extremely dedicated activists fighting fracking in every state where it’s a threat. It’s incredibly inspiring to see these mini-labs in democracy in action.”
The article goes on to document some of the industry attacks, led by front group "Energy in Depth", that we wrote about last June. It also details some of the attacks that have been lodged at Fox by government officials - those supposedly in place to protect the public from ecological dangers.
Meanwhile, at Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood website, conservative docmaker Ann McElhinney has praise for GASLAND's technical prowess ("GASLAND is very pretty, the shots are artistic and the editing is slick and attractive. Josh Fox, the film’s director and narrator, has a soft laid back tone that is alluring and soothing. He can play the banjo and he does."), but claims that the detective work by Fox is lacking:
If he had done any investigation he would find there is no credible, independent evidence that shows fracking for natural gas poses any risk to human health.
But McElhinney, who made a counter-Gore docu a couple years ago called NOT EVIL JUST WRONG that had a premiere screening at IDFA, appears to have missed that the recent science is trending toward backing up some of Fox' GASLAND arguments. As noted in Rolling Stone:
In April, scientists at Cornell published a study suggesting the methane released by drilling and refining gas could undermine the fuel’s credibility as a climate-friendly alternative to coal and oil. Another scientific study, conducted by a team at Duke University and published in a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, officially linked gas drilling to the phenomenon of “flammable faucets”, in which enough gas seeps into the water system that household drinking water can be lit on fire with a match.