A new mainstream film worth paying attention to is Promised Land, starring Matt Damon. The film takes hydrofracking as a jumping off point for what Damon told NPR is the film's exploration of American identity and our way of making decisions.
Before the film's debut on December 28, the gas industry PR machine was seeking to re-frame the film as a fake and a fraud. Meanwhile, many New York residents hope the film expands awareness of fracking's severe ethical problems, such as water pollution.
However, the film should also remind us of something as fundamental as water. Namely, the land. After all, Matt Damon plays a corporate land agent seeking drilling rights.
The great Appalachian writer Harry Caudill had some insight about land agents. He pointed out in Night Comes to the Cumberlands how coal and timber land agents influenced the fate of Appalachia. They either purchased for a song or wheedled away power, resources, and land from unsuspecting Appalachians, transferring vast amounts of wealth and political control to what were, or became, socially reckless corporations.
Focusing on the land should also spark discussion about the great Appalachain land study, "Who Owns Appalachia? Landownership and It's Impact." (scroll down for the NY Times' review) As of 1981, 53 percent of the land surface was owned or controlled by 1 percent of the local population along with absentee, government, and out-of-state corporations.
Given the power of land in human affairs, who controls the land may very well amount to who governs political decisions, community affairs, and life choices.
Promised Land seems to offer an opportunity to further explore how we want to govern and be governed in the next 10 to 25 years - a potentially fine contribution of art to life.