Gasland Part II (2013)

(On Cable TV, September 2013) Writer/director/activist Josh Fox made headlines in 2010 with Gasland, a feature-length documentary that exposed environmental concerns surrounding the rapid development of hydraulic fracturing gas extraction in the United States.  Overnight, “fracking” became a cause célèbre, Gasland ended up nominated for an Oscar and environmentalists everywhere got a new thing to worry about.  Gasland Part II pick up the story three years later, and the result is even depressing than the original: Practically everyone who had problems in the first film still has them in the second, fracking has actually increased and enough time has gone by to see the gas industry counter-attack its critics.  Gasland Part II may sport Fox’s mixture of information and entertainment, but it doesn’t have much to say: much of its running time is spent either re-establishing the film’s points, or recognizing that there hasn’t been any significant progress on the issue.  It feels rather more than an episode in a series (or a second film in a trilogy) than a wholly new documentary.  Combined to the doom-and-gloom atmosphere of the subject matter, it makes for a documentary that’s interesting without being particularly pleasant.  While the film isn’t without humor (there’s a moment, three-quarter through, where Fox essentially says “So, congress is corrupt.  What else is new?  Roll the credits!” and actually does so for a short time.) Gasland Part II is, perhaps paradoxically, definitely aimed at those who already don’t need to be convinced about its central thesis.

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