Review: ‘Gasland Part II’ probes a deeper layer in the ‘fracking’ controversy

The season of summer movie sequels need not apply only to superhero adventures. Apparently environmental documentaries can get in on the action as well, as the haunting and provocative “Gasland Part II” gets a small theatrical release ahead of its airing on HBO in early July. Many people had never heard of “fracking” — a process that uses drilling and high-pressure water to release natural gas from deep underground — until Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary “Gasland,” which went on to be nominated for an Academy Award. The process, and its health effects on people and impact on local water supplies, has become a point of great contention as it has moved around the country and now the globe, largely pitting environmentalists and grassroots activists on one side and the energy industry on the other.

“Gasland Part II” plays out like a PowerPoint horror movie, with Fox’s ominously downbeat narration again providing unnerving punctuation to the wave of statistics and graphics and stories of lives overturned. If the most memorable moment of the original film was a man setting the water from his kitchen sink on fire — also subsequently a centerpiece of debate — in “Gasland Part II,” Fox shows a man lighting up the end of his garden hose. It is certainly an image that demands explanation. With continued arguments and legislation over fracking, this follow-up seems inevitable and necessary.

Fox generated a massive pushback from the energy industry disputing the claims of his previous film — and the sequel even before it has been released — a controversy acknowledged in “Gasland Part II” when Fox in voiceover states, “What really mattered was who was telling the story.”

—Mark Olsen


“Gasland Part II”

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino.