Friday, December 28, 2012

Promised Land Redux - the controversy

We all knew that the subject of Matt Damon’s Promised Land, Hydraulic Fracturing or fracking, was controversial. But the film itself is generating controversy and is the subject of criticism in some circles. That criticism is not targeted at its artistic merit.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the domestic Oil and Gas Industry and its allies have drawn a bead on Damon and the film. They accuse it of presenting only one side of the issue; a negative view of fracking without pointing out the safety measures that the industry has put in place. Both the Heritage Foundation and Energy In Depth (EID), a creation in 2009 of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, have blasted the film. EID has even created ‘talking points’ to be used against the film and the Heritage Foundation in a blog post shares its own video promoting the value of fracking.

Hydraulic Fracturing or fracking is a method for extracting gas by injecting water mixed with other chemicals and liquids to fracture the rock and release the gas. It has been particularly controversial here in Colorado.

Much of the criticism about the bias of the film is rooted in the assumption that Hollywood and stars like Damon are always left-leaning. But the critics also point out that the film was in part financed by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The credits for the film (I am an inveterate credit reader), include a production credit for Image Media Abu Dhabi, which is owned by the UAE government. They suggest that because the UAE and other oil-rich middle-eastern countries don’t want to see the U.S. become less dependent on their energy supplies, they will do anything to thwart increased gas production here.

Damon refutes the criticism saying that he does not believe the film is biased (he also says the film is really about relationships, small towns, the people in them and how economic changes impact them) and that it asks more questions than it answers; questions that need to be asked.

Whatever the criticism, it does not take away from a good story with great direction, cinematography and performances. It is also interesting that the script didn’t originally intend to deal with fracking – Damon and Krasinski intended it to be about citizens scamming the government out of wind-power credits. However, they discovered that the situation was too rare and as Damon says, “too esoteric” to explore.

As I said in my review, you should see this film – whatever your idealogy.

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