“FrackNation” is an independent feature documentary by Phelim McAleer, funded by the public through Kickstarter, that aims to correct the record about “Gasland”—an alleged documentary—which has persuaded people, who haven’t taken the time to research the matter, to believe that fracking—induced hydraulic fracturing—is so polluting that you can get sick from breathing the air as you drive through Pennsylvania and that the farmers are in dire need of help. Josh Fox, the director of “Gasland”, was unwilling to talk about the historical facts that disprove one of the movie’s most memorable and influential scenes of a man setting his water of fire, and dismissed them as “not relevant”. McAleer then tried to post the video on different websites of Josh Fox stating the historical records of people being able to light their water on fire before fracking was irrelevant, but was silenced by HBO—supposedly because of copyright. This motivated McAleer to make his own movie based on what the affected farmers in Pennsylvania really had to say.
Phelim McAleer starts his investigation into the effects on farming that fracking had made by talking to the farmers themselves. He finds that a majority of the farmers and families involved with fracking were in favour of fracking and claimed that there were no ill effects, and that very few families opposed making much-needed money by leasing their land for drilling. Some opponents of fracking claim that their water was polluted because of fracking and that they got sick from drinking from their wells; one man even stated that because of fracking there is now weapons-grade uranium in his water along with a list of other dangerous and deadly chemicals. McAleer also found that there has always been methane and iron in those wells—and not from fracking—and that the families who say that their water is contaminated are unable to produce on film anything but clear water instead of the murky red or brown water shown in Gasland. McAleer and his crew then ask some real scientists about the affects of fracking on the environment.
McAleer asked several researchers (including journalists and engineers) about the effects of fracking and, each time, was told just how safe fracking is and how much Josh Fox misrepresented the process. Fox said that fracking was unsafe, destructive, polluting and could even lead to earthquakes. However, these claims prove to be false. James Delingpole, the journalist and author, said that shale gas is the miracle of the early twenty-first century; in terms of safety and environmental friendliness and economic efficiency, shale gas is about the best thing going in the world right now, he says.
Josh Fox used his film “Gasland” to try to scare decent people into believing that natural gas is bad and to convince us through lying and deception that the gas corporations are evil and are deceiving hard-working farmers into leasing their land to them, which those corporations would pollute beyond repair. Phelim McAleer, after investigating the matter himself, shows the public the truth about fracking.
As a compelling film that keeps you interested: 7 out of 10;
As a documentary that gives corrective arguments along with stories, interviews and visual confirmation of facts, presented in an interesting way: 7 out of 10.
(Cross-posted at Alfred’s Review.
DISCLOSURE: Deadman helped fund FrackNation; see his earlier post “FrackNation”.)
UPDATE I: see “What Happened to the Media”, by Phelim McAleer:
For [anti-fracking] journalists and activists there has been no better story about the evils of fracking than the Hallowich family in Washington County Pennsylvania. Mrs Hallowich told news outlets from across the world how her family’s health was destroyed by fracking activity near their home. She claimed her family and in particular her children were suffering devastating health impacts caused by fracking and said her children could some day have cancer as a result. […]This narrative was only strengthened when it emerged that the Hallowiches had settled a legal battle with an oil and gas company and received a financial settlement. And if any further proof was needed the settlement was covered by a non-disclosure clause—which the journalists and anti-fracking activists took as evidence of wrongdoing and then the cover up of the wrongdoingBut let’s not forget that journalists, when they want to be, can be enterprising. So they worked out that the agreement covered minors–who of course have to be protected from corporations and, in the eyes of the law, sometimes even their parents. So they petitioned a court to release the details of the agreement because the court and not the parents were allowed to decide what was right for the children.The court decided that there was no reason why the lawsuit covering the children should be kept secret and ordered all the documents should be released. […]To the dismay of anti-fracking activists and, I suspect, their journalistic supporters, the document dump confirmed that the Hallowiches had lied to them. The documents confirmed that even as they were claiming to media that fracking was damaging their children’s health, the Hallowiches were sitting on scientific and medical evidence that their children were healthy and not affected by fracking. […]
In my documentary, FrackNation, we interviewed the Sautner family in Dimock, PA. They had given dozens of interviews and in all of them claimed their water contained three types of uranium—“two of them weapons grade.” Not one journalist ever asked for the science behind these claims. It was a story that was too good to check.The publicity surrounding Dimock, PA is one of the main reasons that fracking is now banned in New York—even though test after test by the PA state scientists and the EPA have revealed that there is no contamination in the water. But these results—overturning a key allegation of anti-fracking activists—have received very little media coverage.It is the same with the Hallowiches. When the evidence proved their allegations wrong, the media just refused to publish the science and moved on to the next exciting allegation. And in the meantime families who know no better are frightened of fracking, worrying if their family’s health will suffer. Journalists owe it to these families to follow the story of the Hallowiches to the very end and publish the science that shows their water is clean and their family is healthy.
UPDATE II (23 April): see “Tribeca festival shuts out dissent” by Phelim McAleer:
Our mistake was to believe the Tribeca Film Festival’s claims to want diversity of opinion and people who are passionate about film.
As a journalist who made a documentary looking at the factual deficiencies in the first “Gasland,” I put some inconvenient questions to Josh Fox as he was speaking to the media on the red carpet.
The farmers milling around nearby decided to join in with pointed but respectful questions of their own. After all, they know their land better than anyone, and they felt aggrieved that their lives and communities had been misrepresented by the first “Gasland.”
They asked Fox if he now accepted that the water in Dimock, Pa., is clean. He’d claimed that Dimock was one of the most contaminated areas in the United States because of fracking. But state scientists and then the EPA investigated and found the water clean.
The farmers asked Fox if he’d accept the science and apologize for calling their community a wasteland. He didn’t reply.
There was silence also when they asked Fox if he’s going to withdraw his claim that fracking has caused a spike in breast cancer. That’s been debunked by the country’s top cancer experts, but Fox has remained silent, allowing the fears to linger. […]
It seems that inconvenient questions aren’t welcome at the Tribeca Film Festival. […]
One staffer said they were not allowed in “because you’re making trouble.” Another was more honest: “We just don’t feel comfortable letting them into the movie,” she explained.
The festival organizers called the police just in case the farmers didn’t get the message that they weren’t welcome.
Julia Mineeva, a Russian journalist who’s covered the film festival for five years, thought she’d stumbled across a great story and started interviewing the various groups. When she went in to see the movie she was asked to leave, followed, put in handcuffs, arrested and charged with trespassing.
It seems that covering both sides of a story is an arrestable offense at the Tribeca Film Festival.