Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Experiential Journal: Split Estate and GasLand Drill into Gas and Oil Issues

By Steven Aliano

Split Estate is such a remarkable documentary, so much so that I don’t know where to start in my review. I think the one thing that I took away from the film was how hard of a battle residents and citizens have to put up with the wells and drilling from the oil and gas companies nearby. The split estate situation in general, where residents have the rights to the land, but the government or other private institutions own the minerals underneath, was very interesting. You have to figure in also that these companies have so much political pull, as the demand for natural gas and oil is still so high, that they’re able to do these drills on people’s property without many repercussions.

The film does bring up the fact that the profits made by these companies could allow them to create safer practices in controlling their harmful runoffs such as contaminated water and gases released into the air. These companies lobby for so long saying that these do not run the risk of health effects, but they either soon own up to it or are forced to until new legislation. They seem so legitimately evil, and the people in the documentary who try to defend them are equally so. I couldn’t help but have an evil look and laugh at whatever they had to say whenever they appeared in an interview in the film.

The accounts by “neighbors” of the drills mentioned earlier really made the film. Just seeing how people’s land have been taken away from them when they have owned it for decades running in the family, as well as how all the released chemicals do such a harm to many people’s health was so poignant in the film. 

One of the issues brought up in the film was how when these people try to fight back against the government and these companies, there are always loopholes that these organizations use to ensure that they continue to do what they do and make money. It leads the people to be “exhausted” in their fight and move away (sometimes simply walking away from their homes that they can’t really resell). The funniest thing is that when these people do move, their health beings to improve, however slight in nature. How can anyone say that these drills aren’t causing problems for citizens? 

When it’s evident that more and more wells and rigs are going to be put in in the future, what does that mean for the residents? More people will get sick, more will complain, more will move. This film is a high recommendation, and it makes me want to see more money, time, and effort, put into alternative, renewable resources for energy and fuel immediately.

GasLand Gets Personal

GasLand takes on where Split Estate left off, since it came out a year after. Director Josh Fox shoots GasLand in a style very reminiscent of Michael Moore, which is what drew me into the film right from the start. It shines facts and statistics at you rapidly, has a very distinct camera shooting makeup, and is inspired by the director’s own personal story behind the film (Fox lives in Pennsylvania and had his house in line with a major fault, threatening the split estate situation that is explained in Split Estate).

GasLand focuses mostly on the contaminated water aspect of fracking, whereas Split Estate tries to embrace the whole mixture of other problems coming from these drillings. Both documentaries hold their groundwork in other peoples’ stories. Families from states in the Rocky Mountain West come out to share how these drillings have personally affected them. I also like how GasLand goes more into the “anatomy” of a well, with its drills and pads, succinctly.

Overall, whereas Split Estate was more serious and a little more professional in its presentation, GasLand is more aggressive and almost angry in its tone, presumably from Fox’s own personal tragedy of dealing with his situation in Pennsylvania. You could definitely sense it when he describes playing in the creeks near his house when he was a kid. Later in the film, he inspects a creek that has been contaminated in the Rocky Mountain West, and a certain bend of the creek brings back memories of his childhood, to which he almost breaks down on camera. His own narration throughout the film in addition also gives it a more sensual feel than Split Estate, although that documentary was still touching.    

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