EcoChat: Gasland Part II: Courting Controversy, Driving a Movement

Caption U.S. Geological Survey/Photo by Bill Cunningham

A drill rig in the Fayetteville Shale gas play of Arkansas.

Gasland Part II, the highly anticipated anti-fracking documentary sequel, premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival on April 21st. We missed the Page Six-worthy opening, but three Ecocentric bloggers – Kristen Demaline, Kyle Rabin and Kai Olson-Sawyer – made it downtown to see the third screening a few days later. That event was much calmer (considering some earlier red carpet controversy), although the film itself ratcheted up the intensity surrounding the practice of fracking in the three years since the release of the first Gasland  documentary, the significant influence of which was evidenced by its Academy Award nomination. After the screening, writer and director Josh Fox and Calvin Tillman, the former mayor of DISH, Texas, and a featured protagonist, answered a few questions. And, with his trademark Yankees cap and glasses, Fox proceeded to indulge filmgoers with a brief banjo performance in the theater lobby, as he has done at previous screenings.

To get the scoop on the film, listen to James Rose host a 37-minute EcoChat podcast with Kristen and Kai by either clicking on the audio player or downloading the podcast (both above right, beneath videos). In the podcast, they discuss Gasland Part II  and how it fits into the fracking debate as well as talk about its potential impact on the anti-fracking movement, centered in New York, which has successfully stalled large-scale natural gas development in the state. Below, a sample of our conversation – the full discussion is available (PDF) here.


James Rose: You mentioned these movies are helping to build a movement. Do you think that Gasland one or two, or a combination of the two, will help drive policy either on the state level, at the country, the world?

Kristen Demaline: For me I think that's a really important question. It leads me to kind of a speculative answer, but I think the film's power, Gasland [Part] II's power, in particular, lies in the personal stories that we are hearing. So we're meeting a lot of families in places that already have been fracked and who are dealing with some of the negative effects.

And of course you can't hear about negative effects before they have happened. So in some ways it's definitely a way to share those stories with people who are going to be making policy and I think can be certainly compelling in terms of maybe influencing what kinds of questions they might ask the industry or what kinds of regulations they may want to ensure are developed. Assuming that fracking goes forward in New York State, for example.

Because the film does a very good job of laying out just this wide array of medical problems and environmental damage. And even the number of families who have moved away from areas where they have lived for generations because of what has happened to their land. So I think it could be important on that sort of personal level. And again it could influence larger numbers of people to become involved in terms of making their voices heard in the legislative process.

Kai Olson-Sawyer: I agree in terms of it being a personal, almost visceral film. You see the heartache and the physical, medical problems that people are experiencing. And I do think it helps to galvanize the movement which was already kind of forming during Gasland, the first.

But at the same time I think it goes a step further and it shows that not only are these personal stories really heart aching and harming people in their communities, but it goes further in the context of business, politics¯especially within states because the states are the ones developing the regulations, and are in charge of enforcing them since the federal government essentially is not enabled to do that.

So I think in that way, since it tends to be more local in terms of fighting back or fighting for, in some cases, fracking, that these personal stories will have a lot of impact on the movement and on the people that are involved in fracking or have a drill rig set up in their community or next door or whatever the case may be.


Want to watch Gasland Part II? Catch up with the Gasland Part II Grassroots Tour or watch the film on HBO starting July 8th.