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Directed byJosh Fox
Written byJosh Fox
Produced byTrish Adlesic
Josh Fox
Molly Gandour
Narrated byJosh Fox
CinematographyJosh Fox
Edited byMatthew Sanchez
International WOW Company
Distributed byHBO
Release date
  • January 24, 2010 (2010-01-24) (Sundance)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States

Gasland is a 2010 American documentary film written and directed by Josh Fox. It focuses on communities in the United States where natural gas drilling activity was a concern and, specifically, on hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), a method of stimulating production in otherwise impermeable rock. The film was a key mobilizer for the anti-fracking movement,[1] and "brought the term 'hydraulic fracturing' into the nation's living rooms" according to The New York Times.[2]

Fracking is a technique that has been used routinely since the late 1940s as an aid to stimulating production in oil and gas wells.[3] Horizontal drilling, a recent innovation in drilling techniques, can create horizontal pathways deep within the Earth, and has successfully incorporated hydraulic fracturing to release fluids from shale formations. Horizontal drilling coupled with fracking has transformed the energy business, enabled vast new supplies of natural gas, and advanced the goal of United States energy independence.

The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Documentary. In June 2010, it premiered on HBO to an audience of 3 million homes, and it was seen by over 250,000 audience members during a 250-city grassroots tour. Among its numerous nominations and awards, the film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 83rd Academy Awards[2][4] and won Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards.


John Fenton, a farmer and rancher from Pavillion, Wyoming, became an internationally recognized anti-hydraulic fracturing activist following his appearance in Gasland. He is pictured here at a public event in Sheridan, Wyoming, on September 15, 2012. [5]

Josh Fox describes his receipt of a letter in May of 2008 from a gas company, offering a signing bonus of nearly $100,000 to lease his family's land in Milanville, Pennsylvania, to drill for natural gas,[6] after which he sets out to see how communities across the nation are being affected by the natural gas drilling boom. Beginning in nearby Dimock before driving to locations as far away as Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Texas, where the boom began a decade earlier, he spends time with citizens in their homes and on their land and hears stories about how hydraulic fracturing has contaminated their air, water wells, and surface water with methane and toxic chemicals, leading to a variety of chronic health problems and, sometimes, tap water that can be lit on fire. Although some residents have obtained court injunctions or settlement money from gas companies to replace the affected water supplies with potable water or water purification kits, the companies continue to insist that fracking has never been proven to be the cause of any contamination.[7] Fox is particularly troubled by what he learns because there are plans to begin drilling for natural gas in the portion of the Marcellus Shale formation that overlaps with the New York City Watershed and the Delaware River Basin, which together provide unfiltered drinking water to 15.6 million people in New York City, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Scientists, government employees, and politicians describe how the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act,[8] making the practice essentially unregulated, and, in the end, Fox finds himself in the halls of Congress as a subcommittee discusses the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, "a bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal a certain exemption for hydraulic fracturing"[9] (the proposal never made it past the committee stage).


Josh Fox plays his banjo at a jam session following an environmental meeting at which he was the featured speaker in Sheridan, Wyoming, on November 5, 2011.

Gasland was Fox's first documentary and second film, following Memorial Day, a narrative feature from 2008. He made the film over the course of about eighteen months and often worked as a one-man crew while filming, though later in the process he sometimes employed additional camera operators.[10] Fox gave editor Matthew Sanchez credit for coming up with the structure of the film and said they edited roughly 200 hours of footage down to approximately 100 minutes.[11]

Debra Winger is credited as a "creative consultant" on the film.



On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 41 reviews, with an average score of 7/10; the website's "critics consensus" reads: "GasLand patiently and powerfully outlines alarming problems with modern fuel extraction -- and the horrific public health risks that go along with them."[12]

Robert Koehler of Variety referred to the film as "one of the most effective and expressive environmental films of recent years", saying it "may become to the dangers of natural gas drilling what Silent Spring was to DDT."[13]

Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote: "Gasland is the paragon of first person activist filmmaking done right. […] By grounding a massive environmental issue in its personal ramifications, Fox turns Gasland into a remarkably urgent diary of national concerns."[14]

A review in the Denton Record Chronicle said that "Fox decides that his own backyard in Pennsylvania isn’t his exclusive property. […] Set to his own banjo music and clever footage, Gasland is both sad and scary." The review concluded with the statement: "if your soul isn’t moved by the documentary, yours is a heart of shale."[15]

Stewart Nusbaumer of the Huffington Post said the film "just might take you from outrage right into the fire of action."[16]

Bloomberg News critic Dave Shiflett wrote that Fox "may go down in history as the Paul Revere of fracking."[17]

Chicago TimeOut gave Gasland four out of five stars.[18]

In Australia, film critic Julie Riggs called the documentary a "horror movie, and a wake-up call."[19][20]

Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live gave the film a generally positive review, criticizing its similarity to other recent oil documentaries, yet praising its "extraordinary visual kick". He said "it is a very interesting story which is made better by the fact that the visuals of it are very poetic, very lyrical", and felt that its themes and ideas were relevant and well presented.

Fort Worth Business Press writer John-Laurent Tronche talked about the growing number of documentaries "that aim to shed a light on what they call a dirty, destructive practice: shale gas exploration. And although oil and gas supporters have labeled the motion pictures as radical propaganda, a local drilling activist said they’re part of a larger, critical look into an ever-growing industry."[21]


Energy in Depth (EiD), launched by the Independent Petroleum Association of America,[22] created a web page with a list of factual inaccuracies in the documentary,[23] and produced an associated film titled TruthLand.[24] In response to the EID's criticisms of the film, the makers of Gasland offered a rebuttal.[25]

In an article for Forbes magazine, Dr. Michael Economides, a professor of engineering at the University of Houston and former consultant for energy companies including Chevron, Shell, and Petrobras,[26] commented on the "scene from the upcoming documentary Gasland, which features a man lighting his faucet water on fire and making the ridiculous claim that natural gas drilling is responsible for the incident. The clip, though attention-getting, is wildly inaccurate and irresponsible. To begin with, the vertical depth separation between drinking water aquifers and reservoir targets for gas production is several thousand feet of impermeable rock. Any interchange between the two, if it were possible, would have happened already in geologic time, measured in tens of millions of years, not in recent history."[27]

In an article for Movies on Chatham, Dr. Pam Hassebroek, a former petroleum reservoir engineer (Registered Professional Engineer) at both Exxon Research and Shell, pointed out the long history of oil seeps in surface areas, saying that, in Pennsylvania and New York, surface oil has been documented since at least as far back as the 18th century. She also mentioned that U.S. oil and gas production has benefited from the use of hydraulic fracturing since the 1940s.[28]

A documentary rebutting Gasland's claims, FrackNation, was successfully funded on Kickstarter and released in 2013.





A sequel to Gasland titled Gasland Part II premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 21, 2013,[29][30][31][32] and was broadcast on HBO on July 8. It won Best Documentary at both the Environmental Media Awards and the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, and was given the "Hell Yeah Prize" at the Cinema Eye Honors.

How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change, the third part of the Gasland trilogy, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, toured the world theatrically, and was broadcast on HBO in June. Like Gasland and Gasland Part II, it also won Best Documentary at the Environmental Media Awards.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vasi, Ion Bogdan; Walker, Edward T.; Johnson, John S.; Tan, Hui Fen (2015-10-01). ""No Fracking Way!" Documentary Film, Discursive Opportunity, and Local Opposition against Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, 2010 to 2013". American Sociological Review. 80 (5): 934–959. doi:10.1177/0003122415598534. ISSN 0003-1224. S2CID 146633724.
  2. ^ a b Mike SORAGHAN (February 24, 2011), "Groundtruthing Academy Award Nominee 'Gasland'", The New York Times
  3. ^ Hassebroek, W.E.; Waters, A.B. (1964-07-01). "Advancements Through 15 Years of Fracturing". Journal of Petroleum Technology. 16 (7): 760–764. doi:10.2118/801-PA. ISSN 0149-2136.
  4. ^ "Sparks Fly Over 'Gasland' Drilling Documentary", Talk of the Nation, NPR, February 24, 2011
  5. ^ [1] Illawarra Mercury Website (Australia). Fenton, John. (2014, February 28). CSG industry’s solution: bury proof. (Retrieved 2014-03-18.)
  6. ^ Australia's Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) film page on Gasland. 2010-11-19
  7. ^ Quoted from the Gasland documentary itself, at about minutes 35-40.
  8. ^ Energy Policy Act of 2005. Pub. L. 109-58, TITLE III, Subtitle C, SEC. 322. Hydraulic fracturing. 2011-02-06
  9. ^ 111th United States Congress. "S. 1215: Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act." 2010-04-27
  10. ^ MakingOf. "Interview: Josh Fox."[usurped] 2010-02-25. 2010-05-04.
  11. ^ IndieWire. “Sundance ’10: Gasland Director Josh Fox on Being a One Man Crew.” 2010-01-22. 2010-04-24.
  12. ^ "Gasland (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  13. ^ Koehler, Robert (2010-01-25). "Gasland Movie Review from the Sundance Film Festival". Variety. Archived from the original on April 28, 2018. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  14. ^ Kohn, Eric (2010-01-30). "The Toxic Avenger: Josh Fox's 'GasLand'". indieWIRE. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  15. ^ Breeding, Lucinda (2010-02-18). "'GasLand' Worthy of Sundance Accolades". Denton Record-Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2012-01-12. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  16. ^ Nusbaumer, Stewart (2010-02-18). "Big Sky Doc Film Fest: Gasland Fuel for Justice". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  17. ^ Shiflett, Dave (2010-06-21). "Cook a Hamburger, Blow Up Your Polluted Town". Bloomberg.
  18. ^ Kenigsberg, Ben (2010-11-24). "Gasland - Film - Time Out Chicago". Archived from the original on December 6, 2010. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
  19. ^ "Movietime - 19 November 2010 - Gasland". 2010-11-19. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
  20. ^ "RN Australia Talks - 8 December 2010 - Australia Talks Movies: Gasland". December 8, 2010. Retrieved 2011-07-13.
  21. ^ Tronche, John-Laurent (2010-04-12). "Drilling Documentaries Abound as Shale Gas Goes Nationwide". Fort Worth Business Press. Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2010-12-07.
  22. ^ Honan, Edith (2010-06-17). "Film challenges safety of U.S. shale gas drilling". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  23. ^ Energy in Depth (June 9, 2010). "Debunking GasLand" (PDF). Retrieved December 17, 2011.
  24. ^ "A project of IPAA and Energy In Depth". TruthLand Movie. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  25. ^ "Affirming Gasland" (PDF).
  26. ^ "Michael Economides, International Energy Expert, Dead at 64 Energy Tribune".
  27. ^ Economides, Michael (2010-04-22). "Slurring Natural Gas with Flaming Faucets and Other Propaganda". Forbes.
  28. ^ Hassebroek, Pam (April 2018). "Where and How Did Our Oil and Gasland Begin--Do We Really Want It to End Abruptly?". Movies on Chatham. Archived from the original on 2018-05-06. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  29. ^ Jeff Goodell. "New Anti-Fracking Film by Gasland's Josh Fox Targets Cuomo: 'Governor, What Color Will the Sky Be Over New York?' | Jeff Goodell | Politics News". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  30. ^ 05/15/2012 3:56 pm (2012-05-15). "Josh Fox, 'Gasland' Filmmaker And Activist, Working On Documentary Sequel". Retrieved 2013-03-09.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  31. ^ "Josh Fox Arrested on Capitol Hill While Filming 'Gasland' Sequel | Filmmakers, Film Industry, Film Festivals, Awards & Movie Reviews". Indiewire. 2012-02-01. Retrieved 2013-03-09.
  32. ^ "Gasland Part II". Tribeca Enterprises LLC. Archived from the original on 2013-04-19. Retrieved 2013-04-10.

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