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FRACKMAN You Better Fracking Believe It

Frackman
Frackman

Directed by Richard Todd

Starring Dayne Pratzky

Dayne Pratzky seems like an unlikely choice for an activist. The conservative “blocker” wanted nothing more than to purchase a cheap piece of rural land to set up a quiet life for himself, where he could build his house, hunt food, and enjoy the serenity of the bush. When he is told that a coal seam gas mining well would be sunk on his land whether he liked it or not, Pratzky decided to kick back. The result was a five year long crusade, looking at the effects the industry has had to the people near Tara, Queensland.

There is no doubt that Frackman is an advocacy film, even tagging itself as a “political movie” rather than a documentary in its own advertising. As such it is not concerned with even the pretence of a rational, unbiased presentation of facts. Instead it dives straight for the heartstrings showing the horror that living in such an environment can bring to the lives of those effected. In going for this emotional gut punch Frackman is clearly effective. It’s hard to argue jobs or economic potential when you have a mother weeping on screen about the deteriorating health of her children after a number of gas wells have been placed on her property, or seen water holes bubbling with flammable gas.

Here is where Frackman dwells as a film. Its homespun, larrikin style helps in the digestion of the anti-fracking message. Dayne Pratzky comes across as the quintessential Aussie battler standing up to the big corporations and government, sticking it to the man. The film plays to the core of the Australian dream, that little bit of land you can call your own and can build for your family on. It presents a nightmare version of this, where companies’ mineral rights override those of the land owner, and those activities are detrimental not just to the environment, but to health, quality of life, the social fabric of small towns and property prices.

From its first shots Frackman identifies itself as a guerrilla film, following Pratzky under the barbed wire as he sneaks in to test find what chemicals are being used at a site. It is rough, raw and ready, as the hand held camera accompanies these protests and information gathering procedures. Well edited and constructed, it moves along at a clip, keeping the audience’s attention focussed.

Director Richard Todd shows us five years of community protest to the Queensland gas company. Although focusing on Pratzky the film demonstrates a wider circle of objections to the practice that has galvanised seemingly diverse ideological interests in a common cause. Todd follows this trail back across rural Queensland and even to the American heartland to show a global movement against this form of mining and the conditions it leaves in its wake.

A sobering and inspiring call to arms.

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

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