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Australia 2015
Directed by
Richard Todd
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Synopsis:  A documentary following the story of Dayne Pratzky aka Frackman, a Queensland "blockie" trying to stop multi-nationals drilling for coal seam gas on his and his neighbours' properties.

As an exposé of the environmental and human cost of coal seam gas mining or “fracking”, Richard Todd’s documentary does not reveal anything not already shown in Josh Fox’s similarly guerilla-styled 2010 documentary, GasLand - the despoliation of the natural environmental, the ill-effects on the health of people, particularly children, living near the mining operations, the corporate stonewalling, and so on.  

What is, however, of particularly interest, at least for an Australian audience is a) it reveals that fracking is being extensively practiced here in Australia by American multi-nationals, notably Halliburton and Santos, the former well-known for its involvement with the G.W.Bush administration, and b) it tells with a good degree of Antipodean charm a classically Australian “little battler” story of one individual’s fight to preserve the sanctity of his castle.

Whilst of course the jaw-dropping mendacity of the multi-nationals who go about their dirty work with the compliance of politicians and bureaucrats at all levels of government  is a truly shocking revelation it is in showcasing this via Dayne Pratzky’s personal experience that Frackman has its impact and this because it does so with an unvarnished honesty.

As Pratzky himself acknowledges, he was “the worst environmentalist in the world” until someone came knocking on his door to tell him that they were going to start drilling on his property.  Pratzky’s hackles went up and so began his four year battle to try to stop the multi-nationals by rousing his local community to action, lobbying governments and in so doing, becoming a front-line environmental activist.

I have no idea how much of this was recreated for the camera but Frackman is an well-assembled film with a gripping thriller-like narrative structure and even some romantic interest in the form of an American ant-fracker whom Dayne meets online and acts as a bell-wether for his more impassioned ideas of direct action. All of this comes couched in a suitably grass-roots, rough-and-ready blue-singlet vernacular.

Unfortunately there is no happy ending, at least on an environmental front, as Dayne literally sells out, leaving his neighbours to their fate.  Not that anyone is likely to blame him. At a high personal cost he gave four years of his life fighting multi-billion dollar corporations and their political lackeys.  It is even somewhat surprising that his valiant efforts (remarkably, supported by radio-talk show host, Alan Jones) had so little effect.  But as Ned Kelly put it: “Such is life”.  Human stupidity and greed know no bounds and, no doubt never will until it's too late.




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