Groundswell Rising (NR)

May 15, 2015
By Ernest Hardy
As is the case with so much evil in these contemporary United States, a crucial legal loophole that allows oil-and-gas-industry malfeasance can be traced to the lair of Halliburton and its dark lord, Dick Cheney. In 2005, according to the reporting in the documentary Groundswell Rising, Cheney and his former employer were behind legislation that exempted fracking from EPA review. The result has been a cross-country pillaging of land that has destroyed local (and far-reaching) water supplies, ruined communities and seen a spike in debilitating illnesses in fracking lands.

What separates Groundswell from the spate of recent town-crier documentaries on pressing environmental issues is that co-director siblings Matt and Renard Cohen consistently balance grim facts and expert analysis with scenes of ordinary people pushing back (and often winning) against huge corporations. The Cohens avoid the usual issue-doc trap of piling the doom and gloom so high that final-act slivers of hope seem insufficient to the challenges already raised.

So while it's filled with infuriating examples of corporate greed and duplicity, plus heartbreaking tales of people being cheated of health and hearth, Groundswell is ultimately a rousing, convincing rallying cry that the little guys, working in numbers, can triumph. But the film also makes clear that there is a massive amount of work to be done if the level of damage isn't to become irreparable within the next few decades.

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