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Review: 'FrackNation' takes on an anti-fracking documentary

The film ascribes controversy over the natural-gas extraction method to the doc 'Gasland' and its director, but doesn't add much to the larger conversation.

January 10, 2013|By Mark Olsen
  • A scene from "Frack Nation."
A scene from "Frack Nation." (Handout )

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has become an increasingly divisive issue over the last few years, with claims of damage to local water supplies and other health and environmental concerns dogging the process to extract natural gas from deep underground.

The new documentary "FrackNation," directed by Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda, looks to directly take on the Oscar-nominated anti-fracking doc "Gasland," pointing a finger toward that film and its director, Josh Fox, for any subsequent controversy regarding fracking.

McAleer and McElhinney have previously directed two other documentaries attacking environmentalists, and by the time a talking head declares "shale gas is a gift from God" and another describes the process as "the miracle of the early 21st century," it is fairly clear where "FrackNation" is coming from.

Despite its relatively brief running time and specific aim, "FrackNation" is rather unfocused, hopping within moments from grilling a Delaware River Basin commissioner over "Gasland" to speaking to an elderly pensioner in Poland about her energy bill. Moments of McAleer and his team being kicked out of an event or not allowed on someone's property are theatrical but irrelevant.

Curiously, though McAleer has made something of a public stalking horse of the recent fracking-themed fiction film "Promised Land," it is not mentioned in his film.

The case is not closed on the controversy over fracking by any means — big decisions are imminent regarding the practice in New York state — but a one-sided attack piece like "FrackNation" doesn't add much to the conversation.


"FrackNation." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.


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