22nd April 2021 is this year’s Earth Day, and Johnny Gogan’s documentary Groundswell (also known as Home is a Sacrifice Zone) is a poignant reminder of why we need to mark it. The documentary follows the people of Ireland (specifically Leitrim), as they fight to ban fracking in the country. For those who are not familiar, fracking is the extraction of gas from subterranean rocks by injecting liquid at high pressure – extremely valuable to gas conglomerates and disastrous for the land and the people who inhabit it. The horrors of fracking are detailed in the 2019 feature film Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo, who also appears in this documentary. Dark Waters documents the lawsuits against chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont, when it was proven that their processes had resulted in contaminated water, which led to multiple animal deaths and human cancer.
This documentary features interviews with politicians, doctors, farmers and activists from both America and Ireland, who are all united by a common interest: love and pride for their land. American CEOs (such as interviewee Richard Morrman of Tamboran Resources, with an incessant, condescending grin) thought that they could fool the people of Ireland with the promise of jobs and an improved economy, as the country was still reeling from the 2008 economic crisis. However, a select group of people from Leitrim and beyond fought for six years to ban fracking, with help and information from the US and people who had suffered catastrophic consequences from the practice.
The film does not include any formal sit-down interviews with professionals. Instead viewers see ordinary people climbing glorious landscapes, such as Thur Mountain in Leitrim, passionately speaking about what they’re doing and why they are doing it. The result showcases the beauty of rural Ireland, only reiterating why preserving it is so important. With interjections of darkly melancholic animation from Ivano A Antonozzo, Groundswell is a triumphant, transparent and aesthetically magnificent account of the loving relationship between people and their land, and the fight to protect it from the powerful and the greedy.
Groundswell is released digitally on demand on 16th April 2021.
Watch the trailer for Groundswell here: