HBO Summer Documentary – GASLAND II

By Jef Dinsmore on Jul 9, 2013 to Documentaries

Overview: In the explosive follow-up to his Oscar-nominated documentary GASLAND, also seen on HBO, filmmaker Josh Fox uses his trademark dark humor to take a deeper, broader look at the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil, now occurring on a global level. The film argues that the gas industry’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is a myth, and that fracked wells inevitably leak over time, contaminating water and air, hurting families, and endangering the earth’s climate.


Expectations: In GASLAND Fox discovered tap water so contaminated it could be set on fire right out of the faucet, chronically ill residents with similar symptoms in drilling areas across the country, and huge pools of toxic waste that kill livestock and vegetation. In GASLAND PART ll he seems to be discovering that the same things exist three years after the first film. Those facts should be no surprise to anyone.

That also means this film should not surprise anyone who saw the original GASLAND. The tapping of the Marcellus Shale by the hydraulic fracturing method has only been on the increase since Fox’s first installment. So, my biggest concern going into this documentary is what is new about it from the original? Is Fox just repeating himself? We already know he is returning to some of the same locales as before, so what new facts or news is he going to offer here? We can be sure he is not going to change his tone or approach to his topic. He is out to attack. I’ll have more once I watch GASLAND II. What follows right now is a quick promo of the film before I get into my review.

Gut Reaction: My mind is numb. Actually, it is numb over the same issues as seen in Josh Fox’s first documentary. That does not mean this second foray into the ‘fracking’ business was not good or interesting it was just too much to process. There was clearly enough new information, for example, Fox’s flyover of the Gulf of Mexico spill and drilling in his and friends backyards, to move his endeavor along but it was the way it was all presented that put me in a brain freeze.

Expect for a prolonged scene of turkey-calling, this agitated and stymied filmmaker babbled constantly for the length of the film. He spouted off names of agencies and their agents; long syllabic chemical names and detailed descriptions of how the landscape had drastically changed for the worse. At times it was hard to follow the connective phrases that linked one thought into another. Though the imagery was impactful and other’s words stood out I found myself not catching everything Fox was bantering about.


I blame all that on GASLAND II’s script and editing. It was terribly edited yet still highly impactful. Fox could have almost made three different documentaries from each of the three locales featured, Dimock, PA, Pavilion, WY and Dish, TX. Had he done so the mountain of science, statistics and testimonies reported would have been comprehended and retained a lot longer than they have.

In brief, here is my rant on the subject matter. This film should piss you off on some level. First, there are the environmental issues that have many distraught but besides that there is the issue of a major body of corporations threatening citizens, and manipulating the government. This entity, known as the oil industry, appears to have the federal government by the bollocks and appears to live above the law. In one small defense, if I must, they clearly live by the credo that it is worthwhile to sacrifice a few for the betterment of the many. Josh Fox and many others strongly disagree. It is an ongoing struggle and I tend to believe that the power dictating all this is in the wrong hands.

The muckraking, aggressive investigative journalism of Mr. Fox and his two GASLAND films, regardless of how poorly they may be edited, clearly prove that last statement to be accurate. GASLAND II is a real eye-opener and one that should be seen. It certainly makes you wonder about what price we have to pay for our energy. Should it cost us the health of our habitat and the loss of our freedoms?


In Conclusion: I think I have done a fine enough job of keeping this piece a review of the documentary itself and not weigh heavily on my thoughts on hydraulic fracturing. Honestly, I could have easily done so as I live in the same Keystone State as Fox, albeit on the other side of the state from him. Anything I could say here would be redundant as GASLAND II covers the situation in Pennsylvania very well. In the end, my mind is still numb over the film. But, my thoughts on the issue are very clear – STOP THE ‘FRACKING’ FRACKING!

Other airdates include 07.11 at 8:15am & 4:15pm; 07.14 at 3:15pm; 07.17 at 1:45pm & midnight and also 07.20 at 9:10am. HBO2 runs it on 07.10 at 8:00pm and 07.25 at 3:50am. It is also on HBO On Demand and HBOGo.

  • Peggy Tibbetts

    If you lived surrounded by more than 10,000 gas wells — as I do — you would have had no problem processing the information in this film. Perhaps you need to pay a visit to the other side of your state. Here’s my review

    • Jef Dinsmore

      Oh, no Ma’am I understand plainly what is happening in our state. I also understood the information given me in GASLANDF II. The problem lies, which I made clear in the article, with the fact that so much information was unleashed that the info given in the first half hour was forgotten by the fourth half hour.

      Josh Fox is the right man behind the cause; he just needs a better film editor.

  • Thanks for the write-up, Jef.
    Yeah I watched the first Gasland and this one last night too. I just don’t get the argument FOR dirty water.. can anyone explain it? If this is so profitable why not spend some money to figure out how to do it right? Or at least build some municipal water lines! It’s the least the companies could do.

    Just don’t get the arguments AGAINST having a clean environment. There has to be a better way to get at this resource. Use your piles of money to figure it out!

    (PS: I’m in WA state.. one of the only states on that map that isn’t part of “gasland” and I’m still pissed!)

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