Propaganda, Activism and Environmental Nostalgia

Authored by: Claire Molloy

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415717397
eBook ISBN: 9781315678863
Adobe ISBN: 9781317392460

10.4324/9781315678863.ch11

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Abstract

A brief survey of internet search term trends reveals that searches for the term ‘fracking’ showed a dramatic increase from 2011 onwards, with strong regional interest in the United States and the United Kingdom (Google Trends 2015). The upsurge in key search queries for ‘fracking’ and ‘what is fracking’ followed the release of the film GasLand (Fox, 2010), a feature length documentary made and narrated by Josh Fox, the founder of the film and theatre production company International WOW Company. There is little doubt that Fox’s film had an impact on the international public debate about hydraulic fracturing, a process for recovering natural gas from underground rock formations that involves pumping fracking fluids, a combination of water and proppants, at high pressure to fracture the rock and release the gas from underground reservoirs. GasLand followed the filmmaker’s journey to discover the impacts of this process on the landscape and communities across the western United States. Interviews with citizens revealed a catalogue of questions about the safety of the process and the health problems which, Fox suggested in the documentary, were directly attributable to hydraulic fracturing. The film met with criticism from the gas industry and some scientists – labelled in various quarters as anti-fracking propaganda – and was used widely by activists and grassroots groups to mobilise action in communities across the US and Europe. Using personal and archival footage, fragmented landscape shots and imagery of domestic water supplies set alight, this chapter argues that the film’s use of environmental nostalgia and spectacle constructs a form of positive cinematic propaganda and it examines the film’s reception and the channels of information flow by which the film’s anti-fracking message was propagated.

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