If you see one movie at this week’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival, see “Backyard.” From emerging filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, this film takes an unencumbered look at how hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is affecting people’s lives, and backyards, across the country.
Over the course of the scant 30-minute film, you will meet five people from Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Montana and Colorado, each with a story to tell. As they discuss their encounters with fracking, the camera captures their home landscapes punctuated with tankers, pipelines, flare stacks, holding tanks and drill pads.
“I really tried to focus on each individual experience,” explained Schlosberg.
“These stories aren’t talking points. This is not a political story. It’s an exploration of a controversial issue.”
True to her word, the film is decidedly not a bullet-point list of rebuttals against the extraction method. The personal experiences relayed are genuine and powerful, which is why Schlosberg simply lets her interviewees talk.
“I like to think that my audience can put things together on their own” she said. “They don’t need my opinions.”
Her approach effectively supersedes debate, allowing the audience to mull over the issue without getting bogged down in agendas or ideologies, which is a true accomplishment.
Though not in the foreground of her film, Schlosberg is no slouch. Named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2008 for a 7,800-mile trek across the Andes, she has since completed a similar but shorter trek from Yellowstone National Park to the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho, resulting in a film called “Connecting the Gems.”
She is currently working on a plethora of other film projects, including “Stories of Trust,” which will also be screened at this year’s festival.
Schlosberg’s true presence in the film appears in her beautifully layered but minimal graphics, which explain the process of fracking and how the industry works, something surprisingly few Americans know. These artistic touches reveal much about her ability to weave together a larger story.
In “Backyard,” the larger story is implicit in the title, which stems from the idea that we all share the same backyard, i.e., the planet.
The subject of fracking has been gaining more traction, and more opposition, in recent years. Bans have been passed in Vermont and Colorado, and Massachusetts is stepping up to bat. Schlosberg believes California may be the next fracking battleground.
“Backyard” will screen as part of a session that begins Saturday, Jan. 11, at 9:30 a.m. It will also be on tour with the Wild & Scenic Film Festival throughout 2014. Don’t miss it.
Katie Plumb lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.