2011 Oscars Challenge: Gasland

“Gasland” edges into the competition of Best Documentary Feature this year with its work cut out for it. With competition like “Restrepo”, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, and from what I hear, “Inside Job”. The topic of the documentary is important but the film itself fails on a few different levels that make it easy to pass up for the actual award.

Josh Fox describes in the film how he sort of stumbled upon the documentary. The film dives into the secret world of drilling for natural gas and oil, and the effects it has on the regular citizens living around these rigs and plants. The problem is, Fox assumes the general public knows what all of these actions mean.


The beginning of the documentary is a cluster-cuss of information, like being read chapters out of a textbook by a monotonous voice. Needless to say, the information was lost on me. The film does not really pick up until Fox hits the road and visits those affected by the “frac-ing” all across the country. The most beneficial portion of the film is the lighting of these people’s tap water on fire due to the amount of natural gas contaminating it.

“Gasland” is repetitious, banking of the thought that if one person with contaminated water is not enough, maybe hearing the story of 10 to 20 different victims will eventually break down our reservations. The film is completely one sided, making the gas companies out to the bad guys, like they are working on their own free will. Not that I think the gas company business men are exemplary, stand up guys, but it would have been nice to hear. The interviews the film does contain are misguided and appear to follow the rules of every documentary film before it.


The difference between “Gasland” and say a documentary like “The Cove”, which won last year at the Academy Awards is that “The Cove” offered a way to help the situation. It offered up further reading, places to reach, and a means to an end. “Gasland” leaves you feeling helpless and frightened. Our natural resources are being depleted and Fox offers no recourse besides a broad statement that we need to stop gas companies from “frac-ing”.

“Restrepo” is a film that offers something new, a glimpse into war. “Exit Through the Gift Shop” takes us into the underground world of graffiti artists. “Gasland” does take us on a unique adventure, just not as flashy as the two other documentaries viewed so far. For that, “Gasland” will miss its mark. Not that all films need to be tied with a pretty bow, but some sort of flash could have turned “Gasland” from an amateur feeling film into a impacting journey worth people’s time.

(18 OF 41 FILMS REMAINING)-(15 DAYS TO OSCARS)


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