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Source: Syracuse New Times

Fracked Again

BY ED GRIFFIN-NOLAN

Posted: June 9, 2010
Originally Published: June 9, 2010

Hot water: The old flaming faucet trick gets another workout in the hydrofracking flick Gasland, screening Friday at the Palace.

In between picking up an award at Sundance and seeing his film’s upcoming television premiere on pay cable’s HBO, director Josh Fox will be stopping off in Syracuse this week to attend a local screening of the documentary Gasland, the 37-year-old theater director and playwright’s take on the dangers of hydrofracking and natural gas drilling.

Fox is on a 24-city tour promoting the film and answering questions about hydrofracking. His documentary, which has some viewers comparing his style to that of Michael Moore, was inspired by a letter he received in 2008 from a gas company offering to lease his Pennsylvania property for drilling.

He did not sign. “It’s insane to sign the lease,” he said during a recent phone interview. “Once you sign you no longer own your property. You can be guaranteed air contamination and water problems.”

Worried about the effects on drinking water of a drilling technique that involves shooting millions of gallons of water and a portion of chemicals into the earth, Fox took his camera to Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and New York to meet with families, many of them poor, whom he says have suffered the ill effects of hydrofracking.

“When you get to these areas it’s so obvious that you wouldn’t want to live in the middle of it,” said Fox. His travels led him to conclude that hydrofracking cannot be conducted safely, and there should be a moratorium on drilling until the federal government completes a study of its potential impact. “Everywhere I went I found the same issues. You’re trading your property and the character and the health of your community for the money.”

In a review of Gasland published in the Jan. 25 edition of Variety, critic Robert Koehler said the 75-minute documentary “may become to the dangers of natural gas drilling what Silent Spring was to DDT.” Many credit Rachel Carson’s 1962 book exposing the dangers of chemical pesticides for sparking the modern environmental movement. Gasland has become a favorite of anti-fracking activists, and Fox’s Syracuse visit is being sponsored by the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Other critics have not been as kind to Fox, who makes his home in Milanville, Penn. The online review service Daemon Movies said the film, which follows the story of families whose water supply has been contaminated and, in some cases actually catches fire, “becomes very repetitive and actually starts to get slightly boring.”

“After seeing the third family with flammable tap water,” the reviewer wrote, “you start to get slightly desensitized to the whole thing and start thinking to yourself: ‘OK, but what else is there?’ Overall, as much as I liked the subject matter and the folks portrayed in Gasland, I felt that the overall topic did not justify spending an hour and a half on it. By cutting out the repetitive scenes, this could have easily fit a 15- to 30-minute documentary featured on Current TV.”

Citing his commitment to HBO, Fox did not make a screener copy available despite several requests. The film airs on HBO on June 21 at 9 p.m.

Gasland will be showing at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St., on Friday, June 11, 7 p.m. Fox will be on hand to answer questions after the film. Tickets are available in advance for $5 and at the door for $7. Purchase them in advance at Syracuse Cultural Workers’ Tools for Change store, at 400 Lodi St. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event.

“This is a cautionary tale,” said Fox. “The suffering in Gasland is immeasurable, and the regret quotient is high.”

Gasland is produced by International Wild Company, Fox’s own operation. For further information on his appearance in Syracuse, contact Dereth Glance at 472-1339.