Fractured Land follows a young Indigenous man as he attempts to reconcile his Western education with his traditional upbringing while the natural gas industry continues to destroy Native communities around the world.
The purpose of a documentary is to present the facts. It must have a position and a distinct voice. A good documentary gives you a perspective that is unique and provides a compelling argument towards their end goal—if they can give their position an emotional resonance, then that’s a bonus.
That is ultimately why Fractured Land works. Directors Damien Gillis and Fiona Rayher were smart to filter the issues associated with fracking and the oil industry through the eyes of Caleb Behn, a Dene lawyer, who grew up in a Native community in northern British Columbia. This gives a face to a topic that tends to be very dry.
Caleb is the perfect spokesperson to speak against big oil. He is intelligent, articulate and has stakes in both sides of the issue. This makes him the perfect guide through the issues explored by the film. Caleb’s presence makes an issue that is international in scope feel very personal. This works in the film’s favour as it able to take a side and present an opinion without alienating anyone or singling out a single group as the villain.
Fractured Land is not about the facts and figures, it’s about foraging a connection with Caleb and telling his story. The filmmakers do a great job of connecting Caleb’s experiences from his childhood surgeries to his rocky relationships, his accomplishments as a university graduate to his experience as a hunter back to the harm that’s being done by the oil and natural gas industries. While these connections might seem arbitrary, they only strengthen the personal connection that the filmmakers are trying to create.
The film might be a little light on facts, but anyone who really cares about the consequences of fracking can easily find that information. The problem is making people care, which is where Fractured Land excels.