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Tuesday, September 2, 2014



Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: FrackNation

FrackNation - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

FrackNation is an environmental documentary, and there have been a lot of those that have come out in recent years. It is forgivable if the average moviegoer can't tell them apart anymore. How does it compare to the other film's in this genre? Does it stand out?

The Movie

As you might be able to tell from the name, FrackNation tackles the issue of fracking. Fracking is the process of sending a bunch of water, plus undisclosed industrial chemicals, about a mile into the Earth's crust. This mixture is sent under tremendous pressure, which fractures the shale, thus liberating natural gas, which is then collected. Phelim McAleer, the director / narrator, said this is great, because people said we were running out of fossil fuels. ... Who said that? The big concern isn't if we are going to run out of fossil fuels. It is the damage fossil fuels are doing to the environment. We are only a couple minutes into the movie and already there's a questionable statement. This isn't a good start.

Next up, Phelim McAleer tries to debunk the water being lit on fire scene from GasLand. He claims it is possible for methane to naturally get into a water well, enough to cause it to light on fire. This is true. However, it is incredibly rare. But if there has been fracking in the area, it is much more common. This is like saying there was lung cancer before cigarettes, therefore cigarettes can't cause cancer. This is faulty logic.

Phelim McAleer then brags about his Kickstarter success. Hey, he almost made as much as Corner Gas made on Kickstarter, so he has reason to brag. Snark aside, he claims this success proves people want the truth, and he has to claim he's doing this, "because the people want to know", because of some of his previous films. I'm specifically talking about Mine Your Own Business: The Dark Side of Environmentalism. This film was made in 2006 and dealt with a proposed gold mine in Romania. Gabriel Resources wanted to develop an open-pit mine, but there was push back from locals and environmental groups. Phelim McAleer made this anti-environmental, which was funded in part by... you can probably guess... that's right, Gabriel Resources. He calls himself a freelance investigative reporter, but his track record suggests he's a corporate shill.

Phelim McAleer claims he is being silenced by "Hollywood Elites", among others. First of all, if someone uses the phrase "Hollywood Elites", you know their argument is full of crap. Secondly, it came out this week that workers at the Pennsylvania Health Department were not allowed to talk to people about health risks associated with fracking. The Pentagon did a report that Global Warming is going to cause security risks to the United States in the future. The GOP responded by passing a budget that said the Pentagon isn't allowed to use any money to research the effects of Global Warming any more. The GOP in North Carolina did the same with climate change and rising sea levels. But nope, according to Phelim McAleer, "Hollywood Elites" are trying to censor the opposition.

At this juncture, I think I can stop talking about the details, because you get my point.

When it comes to reviewing documentaries, there are two main criteria to consider. Firstly, is it compelling. If the movie doesn't hold your attention, then it fails on the most basic level. Secondly, it is accurate. If the movie spreads disinformation, then you shouldn't recommend it to others who might not realize the errors, be they deliberate or honest mistakes. This film fails both tests. Phelim McAleer has about as much screen presence as Dinesh D'Souza, which is to say very little. At least he doesn't try to make the movie about himself, so that gives this film a little advantage over 2016: Obama's America. As for the factual accuracy, there is almost none. For instance, his confrontation with Josh Fox was heavily edited. Josh Fox gave a reason why he didn't include that information in GasLand and Phelim McAleer cut out that explanation entirely. At least with Waiting for Superman, the film itself was well made, even if they downplayed evidence that went against their point of view. This film doesn't even have that going for it.

I used the cigarette analogy above for a very specific reason. The PR company that came up with the tactic of raising doubt about the link between tobacco and cancer is the very same PR company that was hired to raise doubts about the link between fracking and environmental harm. And just like with tobacco, where internal memos proved that the PR firms were lying when they raised doubts about the connection, internal memos from gas companies prove they know the environmental risks are real. For instance, the casing used to stop well water from being contaminated fails 6% of the time... immediately. Over the lifetime of the well, they fail more than half of the time. That's an inconvenient truth that Phelim McAleer decided wasn't important enough for the movie.

The Extras

Extras include 19 minutes of deleted scenes and the original Kickstarter video.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but it does cost $25, which is only 11% more than the DVD.

The Verdict

FrackNation is a movie that tries to debunk GasLand, but has serious accuracy problems of its own. It tells more falsehood then it claims GasLand did. The extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray are about on par with other documentaries, but that's not enough to make up for the serious lack of reliability.


- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2014-06-22