‘Gasland,’ showing on HBO tonight, skewers Colorado’s natural gas industry

Filmmaker Josh Fox was living in northeastern Pennsylvania above the massive Marcellus Shale natural gas play when he decided to make “Gasland,” a documentary premiering tonight at 7 p.m. on HBO that shows the environmental dangers of natural gas drilling. His work brought him to Colorado’s Western Slope, where landowners have been battling the industry for years.

Fox’s 16-minute short on the industry last year, called “Life in the Red Zone,” featured flaming tap water near Fort Lupton in Weld County, but the Colorado portions of Gasland focus on Garfield County, where activists and property owners like Lisa Bracken and Tara Meixsell have been persistently warning of air and water pollution stemming from drilling activities.

Gasland won a prestigious special jury prize at the most recent Sundance (Utah) Film Festival, and The New York Times today had this description of Fox: “Like a less manic Michael Moore, Mr. Fox capitalizes on people’s refusals to be interviewed, presenting several montages in which he is seen supposedly making repeated, fruitless phone calls to corporate offices.”

Fox, in fact, tried to interview Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission director David Neslin, who has consistently answered questions for the Colorado Independent, and the Times takes Fox to task for not providing the context of his interview requests.

“… What we don’t see with any real specificity is how these people were approached or what they were told about the film, leaving it difficult to make judgments about their refusals to appear on camera,” the Times notes regarding Fox’s unsuccessful attempts to interview Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and various oil and gas CEOs.

There have been two previous showings of Gasland in Colorado, late last month in Telluride and Paonia, and industry officials have reportedly been working hard to discredit the film – much as some oil and gas representatives questioned the journalism value of “Split Estate,” another documentary that examined gas drilling in Garfield County.

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