France, 2011: Following a very significant civic movement, a bill was passed prohibiting hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on French territory. This eventually resulted in the repeal of the license of Montelimar, originally granted to Total.   This corporation remains free to go and exploit shale gas and shale oil elsewhere in Europe and around the world. As the second gas operator in Argentina, and before any other large multinationals, Total acquired unconventional gas permits in the province of Neuquén in Patagonia, including one within a protected area.   The Vaca Muerta basin, which covers over 30,000 km 2, quickly also became the new El Dorado of other oil companies such as Chevron, YPF , Shell, Apache: Argentina is the third largest country in the world in terms of potentially exploitable shale gas and oil reserves.   Land grabbing , repression … local communities, and in particular members of the Mapuche communities and small farmers, have already been suffering from the impacts of decades of conventional oil and gas exploitation and are again trapped by foreign corporations and YPF, the re-nationalized State company. The government secured this agreement without a single consultation. Resistance begins.


Director's statement

Friends of the Earth France has been leading a campaign on corporate accountability, focusing since 2007 on the extractive industry sector. In this context, Friends of the Earth France is working to support affected communities, and undertakes advocacy work towards French and international decision-makers for them to adopt binding regulation to prevent companies from violating human rights and the environment.   Besides, Friends of the Earth France organizes public campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize citizens around these issues, and to put pressure on the French multinationals in an effort to change their practices.   The documentary Fracking Patagonia was produced as part of a joint campaign between Friends of the Earth France, the Observatorio Petrolero Sur, Friends of the Earth Europe and Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands).   It aims at increasing visibility and offering support to the demands of communities affected by the development of shale gas and shale oil in Argentina.    

Why this choice?

This film is interesting because of the subject matter it addresses: the arm wrestling between a native population and a giant corporation such as Total.   It is emblematic of the violation of the natives’ rights and of their commitment to organize a resistance movement to protect its way of life and its ancestors’ land in the face of the all-powerful giant corporations that take over protected areas to exploit them without any respect for the environmental regulations in place.