Sarah Cullen reviews Johnny Gogan’s examination of the history of fracking in Ireland.

Johnny Gogan’s Groundswell may not be the story many of us want to watch, but it is an extremely necessary documentary that both national and international audiences should take heed of, particularly if Ireland is to avoid the man-made environmental catastrophe that fracking entails. Documenting covert fracking attempts from international bodies that have taken place across Ireland over the last decade, it serves as a warning of what else may come, as well as giving Irish groups a framework for future action against such attempts. 

Both small and large in scope, Groundswell focuses on small, mainly northern, Irish villages that were the target of fracking attempts from international bodies, as well as Pennsylvanian communities that have suffered the fallout of fracking activity including lack of drinking water alongside death and suffering due to rare cancers. 

The documentary also highlights the necessity for cross-cultural solidarity when establishing an opposition to prospective mining companies. Cooperation between the local Protestant and Catholic communities appears to have been key to their ability to erect a united front against the drilling company. Moreover, the anti-fracking bill which was brought to the Dáil in 2017 was a result of a surprising collaboration within the anti-fracking group, Love Leitrim, which was comprised of cross-party TDs as well as members of environmental groups. Like The 34th: The Story of Marriage Equality in Ireland, Groundswell highlights how unlikely alliances are formed in the bid to bring out positive social change. 

Sobering and informative, Groundswell is also illustrated beautifully with short vignettes by artist Ivano A. Antonazzo. Ruminating on the desolation that results from gas and oil drilling, these also act as a reminder of the crucial work artists have played in waking up the world to the reality of environmental destruction. Groundswell is without question one of the most necessary Irish films of 2021. And if similarly necessary documentaries like The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid’s have taught us anything, it’s that there is no good environmentalist story that cannot be undone.

Groundswell is released in Irish cinemas from 30th April 2021.

Watch Groundswell via virtual cinemas in Ireland.


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