Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Twin CBC Documentaries Challenge TV Viewers
I think it's pretty amazing CBC-TV still has the programming moxie to schedule not one but two challenging documentaries on Thursday night.
Remember this is TV's most watched night of the week and it's normally the time when Canadian commercial networks stockpile gobs of imported, expensive American series.
Instead CBC has at 8 p.m. on The Nature Of Things the fine new docu Shattered Ground produced by Leif Kaldor and Leslea Mair.
And at 9 on Doc Zone comes Andrew Gregg's equally excellent docu called Wind Rush all about those giant wind turbines which are provoking such controversy in small towns across southern Ontario.
In short, a Canadian prime time filled with actual new Canadian productions and both are in the category of must see TV.
Fracking is a subject I thought I knew a little bit about from TV news reports. Not so. After all even President Obama has been pounding away at the benefits of fracking to rescue North America's gas and oil industry.
The team of Kaldor and Mair have made such high powered docus as Remote Control War (military drones) and MS Wars (about Multiple sclerosis).
They also know how to grab and hold on to an audience.
We first see a newly built suburban community in Colorado: all huge homes and schools.
the new builds exist right beside a fracking facility --the station involves extracting shale gas by directional drilling.
the toxic feedback has been enormous with many young children suffering massive nose bleeds and many so ill they've missed months of schooling.
Turns out the carcinogens released by fracking get into the atmosphere and can cause major illnesses particularly to the very young.
People nearby talk about the foul odours, scratchy throats, uncontrollable nose bleeds. Food allergies, intestinal complaints --these are consequences of living beside fracking towers.
Methane is creeping into the water supplies. There is flowback from the huge amounts of water pumped into the wells and it has tested radioactive.
The same results are being felt in Ft. Nelson, B.C. And the film makers even interview the inventor of fracking who is not completely sure if the system has been fully developed. The use of so much fresh water which cannot be used again threatens many parts of the western U.S. already experiencing severe drought conditions.
We see a resistance movement forming in Quebec and Ontario. And fracking's reputation as the savior of the energy crisis seems threatened.
All in all it's an immense amount of information artfully compressed into an hour with the great visuals expected of this team.
Can TV offer programs for the mind as well as escapist fare? Stick with these two hours and find out.
Veteran film maker Gregg also knows how to tell a story using outstanding visuals combined with pungent commentaries from experts.
With Wind Rush (for 90th Parallel Productions) he expertly edits his investigations into a seamless expose of how wind turbines are not turning out to be the salvation from our excessive use on coal for energy.
He starts impressively with the experiences of nurse Norma Schmidt who is living near a long line of huge wind turbines-- 110 of them so far. Indeed from the air it seems her small farm is encircled by the great monsters.
It's the noise that is getting to her and to others who live in close proximity to the turbines.
It's a sort of craking sound that doesn't seem all that powerful but it permeates her whole home and it disturbs her night and day.
Like so many others hers is a haunted expression due to lack of sleep and she can't function properly.
Capturing our attention with one person's story Gregg then launches into a saga of the history of wind turbines that takes us to the first ones built in Alberta starting in 1990.
We see how they're assembled, how they've grown in capacity although they still only contribute to five per cent of available electricity.
And Gregg even visits Denmark which supports even greater turbines at sea and is now planning a huge increase of these megamonsters on land . But neighbors are also being driven crazy and there's a grassroots movement aimed at stopping the turbines.
Gregg also offers a reason for the ire of so many rural communities in Ontario. He says the province's 2009 Green Energy act sidestepped local municipalities to cut red tape allowing developers to place the turbines in too close proximity to homes.
And the impressive array of health experts who tell us what is going on clinches the argument as far as I'm concerned.
CBC offers two solid hours of TV for the mind, not bad for a medium usually preoccupied with escapist fare.
SHATTERED GROUND PREMIERES ON CBC-TV's THE NATURE OF THINGS, THURSDAY FEBRUARY 7 AT 8 P.M.
WIND RUSH PREMIERES ON CBC-TV'S DOC ZONE THURSDAY FEBRUARY 7 AT 7 P.M.
MY RATING: ***1/2.