With its jolting images of flammable tap water and chemically burned pets, New York theater-director-turned-documentarian Josh Fox’s Sundance-feted shocker makes an irrefutable case against U.S. corporate “fracking”—the Haliburton-hatched scheme of natural gas drilling in and around the nation’s shale basins. Narrating in the first person, the filmmaker begins by describing a gas company’s six-figure offer to drill on his rural Pennsylvania land, which sits atop what the company trumpets as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Refusing the deal, banjo-strumming Fox takes his show on the road, inviting citizens who did take big-energy cash to prove the contamination of their groundwater and recount its ill effects on their health. Describing himself as “not a pessimist,” Fox nonchalantly exposes EPA conflicts of interest and fingers the “Haliburton loophole”—a curious exemption to the 2005 Energy Act as cooked up by ex-Haliburton exec Dick Cheney. No mere collection of talking heads, the doc expertly juxtaposes instances of natural beauty with those of mechanized incursion, practically making us feel the toxic chemicals spilling off the screen and into our laps. Alas, Fox pushes his luck on the soundtrack by coming on like Marty Sheen in Apocalypse Now, his ultimately numbing voiceover delivered in halting rhythms and hushed tones. Still, there’s only one conclusion to draw here: No fracking way.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 15, 2010