A multistate tour for the controversial documentary “FrackNation” came to the Indiana Theater on Thursday, drawing close to a full house of community members eager to talk to the film’s director.
The film by Phelim McAleer, an investigative journalist and the filmmaker behind “FrackNation,” questions environmental activists and uncovers what he calls the “truth” about fracking.
His motivation? The film “Gasland,” which paints a negative picture of the fracking industry, and the reaction of its creator, Josh Fox, to a confrontation between McAleer and Fox. McAleer posted the confrontation on YouTube, and Fox’s lawyers fought successfully to have the video removed from the Internet.
The idea that someone tried to shut him up, he said, was one of the biggest motivations to create “FrackNation.”
“I’m from Northern Ireland, and no one tells me to shut up,” he said.
The film was funded by Kickstarter, a website that allows independent artists and filmmakers to raise money for their projects.
“I thought about it for a while and then it took about 15 months for it to get on TV and get it active.”
Once it did go public, it received criticism from anti-fracking environmentalists everywhere. The filming, which uncovers what McAleer considers to be lies portrayed in “Gasland,” wasn’t easy — in the film a woman in the Susquehanna County community of Dimock even threatens him by showing McAleer her gun permit after he requests a water sample from her well.
“I’m entitled as much as the next person to ask questions,” he said. “I believe you have this thing in America called freedom of speech.”
And even if she were to pull a gun out of her purse, McAleer wasn’t about to back down.
“I thought, ‘If I do get shot, I hope the camera’s still rolling.’”
After the showing of the film, McAleer was available for questions from community members, and they weren’t short of them.
One question posed by a community member: Does Josh Fox really believe in what he’s doing, or does he believe in the money he’s making because of “Gasland?”
“Unfortunately for you guys, Josh Fox is a true believer,” McAleer said. “He’s anti-corporate, anti-business … anti-American.”
McAleer says that the truth about fracking is there, but Fox will continue to gray and smudge the facts.
“Environmentalists portray themselves as the underdog,” he said, “when they’re actually the rich kids.”
McAleer says it may be in Fox’s best interest to stop fracking in the United States, but doesn’t believe that he should go ahead and make a sequel of the film.“I’m not sure making a sequel is Josh Fox’s best idea ... everyone’s very aware of the damage he can do by false representation,” he said.
A Jamestown, Mercer County, resident in the audience whose father works for the Department of Environmental Protection brought up what she called a new “rumor” about fracking: radioactive chemicals in the ground.
“The latest scare is radioactive water, because deep down there there’s really radioactive stuff,” McAleer said sarcastically. “It comes up through the wastewater, and we’re all going to die — that’s the latest scare.”
“I’ll take the anti-fracking business seriously when they produce the scientific fact that it causes breast cancer. … I’m not going to listen to any more environmental scare stories until they prove the previous ones.”
Many of those in attendance appeared to have done business with gas companies in the area, and one attendee mentioned that background water samples were taken from his property before he even considered doing business with them.
McAleer said that, in the case of many people complaining of polluted water, they have just run their wells dry and what’s left at the bottom is grime. That’s why, he said, water is turning up brown in places like Dimock.
“You’ll find that most people taking cases against fracking have no royalties.” They’re getting “pennies” from the companies because of small acreage.
The one question on many attendee’s mind: Will McAleer be making a sequel?
He said he’d like to see what “Gasland 2” has to offer before making any sequel plans.
“I’m not interested in fracking anymore,” he said. “I’m interested in the truth.”