Reviews

“What makes Groundswell Rising so compelling, it’s not an attempt to deliver a political message via means of propaganda disguised as documentary but speaks with the people concerned the most, shows their grassroots efforts to make a change, shows the side effects of fracking rather than breaking it down into chemical formulas coupled with what-ifs, makes this fight David vs Goliath palpable.”

- Mike Haberfelner, LA Weekly Review


“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.”
– Ernest Hardy


“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.

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 requiring 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.”
– Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter


“Groundswell Rising follows the huge impact of fracking on communities in Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania. The “groundswell rising” are the people of these communities who are pushing back against local governments and unseen leases for chemical rights hidden from people who purchase land, thinking they were buying a farm or property for a home in the country.

Cancer, rashes, respiratory disease, fertility and reproductive problems all started occurring where fracking wells are dug within close distance to homes and schools. Communities are disrupted by years of heavy trucking and chemicals, especially benzene and other known carcinogens, released into the ground water that supplies many communities. The environment is a pro-life issue.

Groundswell Rising tells about ongoing efforts as well as victories resulting from involved citizens who want sustainable energy. But there’s a lot of heartbreak in the film, too.

This documentary is worth watching as we contemplate our responsibility and response to what the future of Earth will look like for everyone.”

-National Catholic Reporter