The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration Committee, Baltimore Quaker Peace and Justice Committee of Homewood and Stony Run Meetings and Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility are continuing the FILM & SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS DVD SERIES. The DVDs will be shown at Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21218, on the First Friday. After the peace vigil, there will be a potluck dinner. At 7 PM, from January through June, a DVD will be shown with a discussion to follow. There is no charge, and refreshments will be available. Contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at verizon.net.
The series theme is WHY CAN’T WE GET ALONG? On Fri., Jan. 4, see "Paths of Glory," a 1957 American anti-war film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb. Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refused to continue a suicidal attack. Dax attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court-martial.
Cobb's novel had no title when it was finished, so the publisher held a contest. The winning entry came from the ninth stanza of the famous Thomas Gray poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard".
"The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
Matt Damon Exposes Fracking in Promised Land
By Tina Gerhardt
December 31, 2012
Hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as fracking, is a
contentious issue, and Hollywood has not overlooked it.
Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Matt
Damon, takes on fracking, which involves blasting millions of
gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into rock, often shale,
in order to extract the oil and natural gas within the
formations. Critics argue that the process wastes colossal
amounts of water; contaminates air, soil, and drinking water;
and may be implicated in causing earthquakes.
The screenplay, written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, is
based on a story by Dave Eggers. It's a decidedly mixed bag.
In Promised Land, Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is a salesman, who
-- along with his colleague Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand)
-- travels to rural Pennsylvania. He sees fracking as a chance
to help struggling farmers. Working for Global Crosspower
Solutions, they sign lucrative leases: the farmers earn money
by leasing their farmland, while Global earns by extracting
Having grown up in rural Iowa, where his grandfather owned a
farm, Steve knows first-hand the struggle of farmers, so sees
no issues with his mission at first. All the arguments from
"can't survive on federal farm subsidies" to "it will fund the
rising cost of a college education" are included in the sales
pitch and made in quick succession.
As in real life, heated debates among the area residents
ensue. The farmers, who are struggling financially, are
tempted to take the badly needed monies to make ends meet. Yet
Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), a science teacher at the local
high school, expresses concerns at a town meeting about the
long-term effects of hydraulic fracturing on the region, its
soil, water, and air, and consequently on livestock and
And then Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), an environmentalist,
arrives in town, expressing just these and other concerns,
too. Who will pay for the clean up that might be needed, once
the resources are depleted and the company moves on? The
company? The state? The local coffers? Who will pay for any
adverse effects on health that might be incurred? Who will
replace the lost jobs that the boom and bust economic wave
might unleash? A one-man organizer, he goes farm to farm,
talking to the residents and putting up signs in their front
lawns that read "Global Go Home" and are adorned with images
of dead cows.
Promised Land complicates what could be a simplistically
rendered battle between outside salesmen seeking to profit
from struggling local farmers by presenting the fissures
within each group: the differing opinions among the farmers
about the best course of action, and the increasingly
conflicted viewpoint of Steve Butler.
The film portrays the increasingly bleak economic prospects in
the rural U.S., which Steve, increasingly frustrated with the
resident's skepticism, depicts at the local bar, Buddy's
Place: "You think about how much you made on your best day ...
and then you think real hard about much you made on your
worst. Cuz let's be real honest with each other, they're all
starting to look like that more and more, aren't they? These
people? This town? This life? It's dying and damn near dead."
In Promised Land, the decision about whether or not to allow
fracking is ultimately brought to the town for a vote. Debate
exists about whether hydraulic fracturing should be regulated
at the federal, state, or local level. To date, numerous towns
and cities nation-wide have passed local bans. Both New York
and Maryland have suspended fracking, in order to assess its
environmental and health impacts. New York City has stated
that hydraulic fracturing's risks are too great to risk
contaminating the drinking water of its 8.5 million residents.
Unfortunately, the film leaves Steve's moral education up to
local high school teacher Alice (Rosemate DeWitt) and science
teacher Frank, who used to be a scientist. Alice once lived in
Manhattan but moved back to her grandfather's farm because
when it came time to give up the property, she "did not want
to be that person." Now, she brings students to visit the
garden in the backyard, so that they "learn how to take care
of things." It's a line she gives Steve when he first tours
the yard and one he cites during his last speech. The implicit
narrative: Leave it to the women and elderly to be the moral
compass that (may) educate men and have them realize a sense
of ethics. (And teachers are mainly people who have been
successful elsewhere rather than choosing the profession for
its own merits.) Yawn.
Also disconcerting is the fact that the environmentalist comes
from outside the community rather than from within the
community. This distorts the broad base and local roots of the
The clichÃ©d depictions of non-urban spaces as all alike also
smack of bi-coastal unfamiliarity and may rub audiences the
wrong way. The film quips "two hours outside any city looks
like Kentucky." In fact, as anyone who has ever driven through
Kentucky and Pennsylvania knows, the two are not the same, in
vegetation, in people's demeanor, or in shale deposits.
Promised Land contains superb acting and beautifully shot
landscapes, but unfortunately it offers a rather superficial
take on fracking and clichÃ©d images of rural residents.
The film opened in select cities on Friday, December 28,
making it an Oscar contender, and opens nationwide on January
4, 2013. To find a theater near you:
Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic who
covers international climate negotiations, domestic energy
policy and related direct actions. Her work has appeared in
Alternet, Grist, The Nation, The Progressive and the
Washington Monthly, as well as Climate Progress, Tree Hugger
and The Guardian UK.