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A documentarian is accusing a Minnesota film festival of political bias after it cancelled a screening of a documentary supporting the environmental and economic cases for hydraulic fracturing, an innovative oil and gas extraction technique.
The documentary, FrackNation, was scheduled to be shown alongside Gasland Part 2, a factually suspect film attacking hydraulic fracturing as environmentally destructive.
“We definitely had a lot of discussions about it with our board, with some people in our community wanting to see FrackNation, other people wanting to see Gasland Part II," said Kathy Florin, assistant director of the Frozen River Film Festival.
However, festival organizers announced on Friday that its FrackNation screening had been cancelled.
They cited allegations that FrackNation’s creators have ties to the oil and gas industry and said they had reneged on an agreement to speak at the screening, which the filmmakers say is also untrue.
The filmmakers deny both charges and said ideological opposition to hydraulic fracturing among the festival’s organizers led to the cancellation.
"The film festival organizers seem to hate alternative points of view, they seem to want to quash diversity,” said FrackNation creator Phelim McAleer in a statement. “They seem to be scared of the truth.”
“These people are cultural censors and don't want the truth about fracking to be shown to audiences," he added.
Mike Kennedy, chairman of the festival’s board, told the Winona Daily News that he “doesn’t want to be a censor.”
“We really had to search our soul,” Kennedy said. “We’ve never cancelled a film.”
According to the Daily News, the decision to cancel the screening came after “some … questioned whether the filmmakers have ties to the fracking industry.” It did not specify who, exactly, had questioned those ties.
“Mostly local industry people who were interested in making money on the fracking business were wanting to show” FrackNation, said Kennedy, who admits he is personally opposed to hydraulic fracturing.
McAleer and his wife and co-creator Ann McElhinney had made a point of rejecting industry support for FrackNation.
They turned down any industry funding for the film, instead relying entirely on “crowdfunding,” primarily through the website Kickstarter.
“We want to remain completely independent,” McAleer said at the time. “I think that makes us the only film company in the world to have sent money back.”
Kennedy did not respond to questions about allegations that McAleer and McElhinney have industry ties.
Kennedy has previously promoted other films that warn of the supposed hazards of hydraulic fracturing, including one that seeks, in Kennedy’s words, “to find the real price of frac sand, not just in dollars, but in friendships, communities, and the future of our region.”
He also told the Daily News that they had backed out of a post-screening question-and-answer event, which the filmmakers say is untrue.
“Just to be clear, the film was funded by Kickstarter, and there was no arrangement that someone from the film would attend,” McAleer told the Free Beacon in an email.
McAleer has faced resistance from other film festivals such as the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, Colo., Frozen River’s sister event.
McAleer said he was disappointed to see Frozen River organizers follow the lead of other festivals that have rejected the film.
"Basically the Frozen River Film Festival organizers have given in to bullying and taken the easy way out and censored a film that might offend environmental elites who think they know best,” he said.
The news follows a report in industry trade magazine Variety examining the bias against conservative documentaries at film festivals.