'Groundswell Rising': Film Review

Groundswell Rising Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Groundswell Rising

Groundswell Rising Still - H 2015

Fracking scary ...

Renard Cohen's documentary chronicles the rise of grassroots opposition to the controversial form of energy extraction known as fracking.

In case 2010's Gasland and its sequel didn't fully address your concerns about the controversial practice of natural extraction known as fracking, Renard Cohen's film arrives to further illustrate the myriad environmental and health concerns attendant to its growing use. Concentrating particularly on the growing of opposition by ordinary citizens who find themselves besieged by well pads located near their homes and schools, Groundswell Rising makes its case with passion and clarity.

Beginning with a sequence featuring graphics illustrating exactly how fracking works, the film proceeds to introduce us to various "fractivists," including a group of concerned Colorado mothers who formed an organization called "Erie Rising"; a woman who's posted more than 400 YouTube videos documenting its nefarious effects; and the organization "Fleased" comprised of New York landowners who leased mineral rights before becoming aware of the harmful effects of shale gas exploitation.

The requisite celebrity quotient is provided by footage of actor Mark Ruffalo delivering a passionate speech at an anti-fracking demonstration and singer Natalie Merchant performing a concert benefiting the cause.

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We also learn that Dick Cheney, Darth Vader himself, joined forces with his former employer Halliburton to support the 2005 Energy Policy Act that exempted fracking from EPA rules that require the exact reporting of chemicals are used in the process.

Featuring damning commentary from an array of science and environmental experts and frequently anguished accounts by ordinary citizens whose drinking water and general health has been negatively impacted by the expansion of fracking into their communities, Groundswell Rising delivers its arguments with a canny mixture of facts and emotion. Of course, little of this is likely to sway those on the opposite side of the debate. Other than excerpts from energy company television commercials extolling the virtues of fracking, there is no commentary from the other side.

But however you stand on the issue, you're likely to be moved by the film's portraits of grassroots activists managing to make their voices heard despite the opposition of major corporations and the big money at their disposal.

Director/screenwriter/producer: Renard Cohen
Executive producers: Matt Cohen, Mark Lichty
Directors of photography: Renard Cohen, Dave Lalczak, Mark Lichty, Matt Cohen, Richard Dallett, Shane Weykes, Brian Noreika, Christian Lichty
Editor: Ryan Kollmorgen

Not rated, 71 minutes