DENVER–The pro-fracking documentary FrackNation has received mostly positive reviews since its release last week, but so far there’s been no public comment from Joshua Fox.
Fox is the writer/director of Gasland, the anti-fracking documentary that was the inspiration for FrackNation.
If there’s a villain in FrackNation, it’s Fox, who refuses repeatedly in the film to discuss alleged factual errors in Gasland with journalist Phelim McAleer.
A media representative for International WOW Company, Fox’s New York production company, said she was unaware of the filmmaker’s reaction to FrackNation.
“I think Josh right now is a bit wrapped up in trying to finish the edit for GASLAND 2, which HBO is planning I believe to try to air sometime in spring,” said agent Morgan Jenness in an email. “I’m not sure he’s even seen FRACKNATION.”
He may not have seen FrackNation, but Fox is undoubtedly aware of it, thanks to McAleer. At one point in the film, McAleer is shown calling Fox, who hangs up on him. McAleer calls back, only to receive Fox’s voice mail.
McAleer is later kicked out of a forum featuring Fox after he tries to ask him a question, even though the event is open to the public.
McAleer does end up questioning Fox at a May 2011 screening of Gasland in Chicago. During the exchange, Fox acknowledges the controversy surrounding the most dramatic moment in his film, a scene in which a Weld County homeowner lights tapwater from his kitchen spigot on fire.
The film blames hydraulic fracturing for causing methane to leak through the water supply, but as McAleer points out, people in rural areas where the soil is rich in methane have been able to light their tapwater on fire for decades, long before the advent of hydraulic fracturing.
Fox actually admits that he is aware of such reports, including a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission study that found the flaming faucets from Gasland were the result of naturally occurring methane, but says such information is “not relevant.”
In promotional materials for Gasland, including its Facebook page, Fox continues to use the slogan, “Can you light your water on fire?” He defends the scene in an 18-minute “emergency short” film released in June, The Sky is Pink, which attempts to rebut critics’ allegations about inaccuracies in Gasland.
“Their chief point was that the shot seen ’round the world from Gasland of Mike Markham lighting his water on fire was somehow a fake, not due to drilling, but the methane in his water was, quote, naturally occurring,” says Fox in his narration. “Was anybody buying it?”
FrackNation debuted nationally Jan. 22 on AXS TV, the cable channel founded by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and more showings are scheduled for next week. The film was made on a budget of $212,000 from donations raised on the website Kickstarter and none of it from the oil-and-gas industry.
The New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis wrote an approving review of FrackNation, saying that McAleer “has done his legwork.”
“Narrated by Mr. McAleer, whose previous documentaries have also argued against environmental concerns, FrackNation is no tossed-off, pro-business pamphlet,” says the review. “Methodically researched and assembled (and financed by thousands of small donations from an online campaign), the film picks at Mr. Fox’s assertions and omissions with dogged persistence.”
Less impressed was reviewer Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times, who called FrackNation a “one-sided attack piece.”
Oddly enough, movies about hydraulic fracturing have become all the rage. Along with Gasland and FrackNation, there’s Promised Land, a Hollywood film released in December and starring Matt Damon that takes a dim view of hydraulic fracturing. The Independent Petroleum Association of America released the pro-fracking documentary Truthland in June, while Gasland 2 is expected to debut on Home Box Office later this year.