×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

FrackNation

Those nursing the suspicion that Hollywood politics are awash in knee-jerk liberalism may well have their cynicism validated by "FrackNation," a counterargument to the outcry over the natural-gas retrieval process known as "fracking" recently explored in Gus Van Sant's feature "Promised Land."

With:
With: Phelim McAleer, James Delingpole, Josh Fox, Carol Collier, Julie Sautner, Craig Sautner.

Those nursing the suspicion that Hollywood politics are awash in knee-jerk liberalism may well have their cynicism validated by “FrackNation,” a counterargument to the outcry over the natural-gas retrieval process known as “fracking” recently explored in Gus Van Sant’s feature “Promised Land.” But the more thoughtful and politics-oriented auds targeted by this well-reasoned film from helmers Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda will find plenty to chew over, including the possibility that perhaps all is not as simple as it seems in the world of nonrenewable energy.

Irish journalist McAleer narrates and serves as host to this briskly paced, low-budget and mischievous pic, presented as a rebuttal to Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated “Gasland,” a docu that has been instrumental in building political resistance to a process seen by different factions as a godsend and an antidote to Big Oil. Fox is clearly depicted as the villain in “FrackNation,” from a “Gasland” post-screening Q&A where Fox refuses to answer McAleer’s simple questions, to a scene at Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum where Fox literally flees the camera.

McAleer makes a good case against Fox’s movie. From the farmers of the Delaware River Basin, for whom fracking hysteria has meant a loss of crucial income, to experts like James Delingpole, who somehow makes a fairly reasoned case that the anti-fracking people are the tools of Russian President Vladimir Putin (for whom the natural-gas market provides political leverage), most of the voices entertained here make a good deal of sense. But the filmmakers might have done well to address the animosity so many Americans feel toward the energy business in general.

From the Exxon-Valdez and BP oil spills to the Trojan horse of wind turbines, the sense among the anti-fracking constituency is that if something can go wrong, it will eventually, either through cost-cutting or lack of oversight. “FrackNation” doesn’t actually claim that fracturing — the process of extracting gas by drilling through shale — is utterly mistake-proof. But in striving to counter the sometimes frenzied positions taken against the process, the docu becomes a promotional tool for it, a role it assumes a bit too eagerly.

The helmers provide just the right amount of technical info and jargon to give their findings scientific weight (at least for the lay-viewer), but it’s the human stories that give the film a pulse. The farm families interviewed, in such struggling areas as Sullivan County, N.Y., and western Pennsylvania, are for the most part firmly in support of the gas companies; without their money, one farmer says, the farms might go out of business, resulting in increased housing construction and a more stressed-out environment.

Although McAleer debunks the famous “Gasland” scene of a fracking “victim” setting his tap water on fire (the docu establishes that methane has always been in the drinking water of some of these rural communities), a few of those interviewed maintain they’ve been victimized by fracking, like Julie and Craig Sautner, who react angrily to EPA officials who declare their water safe, and to McAleer when he asks to test their water.

All does not flow smoothly in “FrackNation”: Some of the generally fine music by Boris Zelkin and Deeji Mincey is laid on a bit thick. And McAleer’s sandbagging of Carol Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, seems pointless, except as an effort to get an anti-fracking official to look like she’s got something to hide.

Tech credits are good, notably the editing by Jeff Hawkins.

FrackNation

Documentary

Production: A Hard Boiled Films presentation. Produced by Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney. Executive producers, McElhinney, McAleer, Barton Sidles. Directed, written by Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney, Magdalena Segieda.

Crew: Camera (color), Ben Huddleston; editor, Jeff Hawkins; music, Boris Zelkin, Deeji Mincey; sound, Gerald Beg, Marcus Pardo. Reviewed online, New York, Jan. 9, 2013. Running time: 76 MIN.

With: With: Phelim McAleer, James Delingpole, Josh Fox, Carol Collier, Julie Sautner, Craig Sautner.

More Film

  • Celebrities Sound Off on 2018

    Celebrities Pick Their Favorite Movies and TV Shows of 2018

    Still looking for the latest and greatest movie, TV series or book to finish before the year is out? Why not ask the folks behind Hollywood’s favorite hits, what they’re reading and viewing this 2018. We reached out to the stars and creators behind the things you love (including Barry Jenkins, Steven Canals and Dan Levy)  to [...]

  • Kate Winslet Saoirse Ronan

    Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan to Star in Fossil Hunter Movie 'Ammonite'

    Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan are starring in the independent historical drama “Ammonite,” a story inspired by the life of fossil hunter Mary Anning. The story is set in 1840s England, when Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever. Anning is [...]

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Salads for two.jpg

    Palm Springs Cuisine Scene: Latest Places to Dine in the Desert

    Desert playgrounds of the Coachella Velley beckon attendees of the upcoming Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival, getting under way Jan. 3. Veteran festgoers will notice some changes around town: the Hard Rock Hotel is again the Hotel Zoso, the Camelot Theaters now function under the auspices of the Palm Springs Cultural Center and there are [...]

  • Mary Poppins 1964

    P.L. Travers' Efforts to Adapt 'Mary Poppins' for Film, TV Were Often Less Than Jolly

    Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” a sequel decades in the making, opens Dec. 19. Even before the 1964 original, Hollywood made several attempts to adapt P.L. Travers’ books, with Samuel Goldwyn and Katharine Hepburn among those involved in the chase. But aside from a one-hour 1949 CBS television version, they all hit a dead-end. The first [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content