Saturday, September 20, 2014

Appalachian Film Festival

Austin Swanson

            Thursday night was the opening of the ninth annual Appalachian Festival, beginning with it’s film Triple Divide. Several people spoke before the film began, including Kara Rogers-Thomas and guest speaker Barbara Hurd, who is a poet and the author of three books, including Stepping Into the Same River Twice. She began reading what she, “Thinks of as a five-minute fable,” which paralleled what the film was discussing.
            Triple Divide talks about the impact of shale gas development and how state governments are trying to handle the situation. Many findings found in this film that there are clear endangerment issues to both public and environmental health due to the extraction of shale gas. The factor that really brought this film to light was the numerous extensive interviews the filmmakers were able to get with people who had had first-hand experience in these matters. The film discusses many different and complex issues dealing with shale gas, and the feeling is the viewer really needs to think about what the filmmakers are saying. This film shows a breakdown of trust and the responsibility of the one-thing humans cannot live without, water.
            The idea of the contamination of drinking water through the extraction of shale gas is disturbing. Several farmers and landowners were interviewed in this film, all having negative experiences when dealing with this. One farmer even stated in the film that, “I felt like a visitor on my own land.” He had signed no previous paperwork allowing companies to dig for shale gas on his property.
            Their were many scenes throughout the film that were memorable because they were so disturbing. One scene in particular dealt with investigative reporters going near a hydraulic fracturing machine at night that had no trespassing signs around it. When they got to the site, they found there car had been boxed in by trucks. When the truckers asked for there cameras and they wouldn’t hand them over, one female reporter was physically assaulted by one of the truckers, until another reporter pulled him off. After the incident a lawsuit was filed, and the reporters were called “Eco-terrorists” for trying to sabotage the hydraulic fracturing work site.
            As the film progresses, the overall changing of color is noticeable, reflecting the film’s tone. As the film dives into darker material, the colors begin to do the same. At the beginning of the film, the audience is introduced to a lush green forest with a river running through it. Then the colors begin to change from quiet green forests and farmlands to gray foggy backgrounds, to eventual night, which is when the latter part of the film is shot. 
            After the film was finished, several audience members said they were surprised. One woman said, “I didn’t realize they were going to do it from the watershed’s viewpoint.” Another woman who said she has resided in the Frostburg/Cumberland area most of her life explained, “I didn’t realize it was this serious of an issue. It makes you wonder why we don’t hear about this on the news, considering it could be happening so close to home.” One couple that drove in from West Virginia explained, “This is a serious issue. If Pennsylvania residents are aware of this, why are there neighboring states not as aware of it as well.”

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